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II.1‑98

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!

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III.1‑38

(Vol. I) Herodotus

 p385  Book II: chapters 99‑182

In the left margin, links to Rawlinson's translation (Vol. I, with valuable notes),
and to the running commentary by How and Wells.

99 Rawlinson p162 H & W Thus far all I have said is the outcome of my own sight and judgment and inquiry. Henceforth I will record Egyptian chronicles, according to that which I have heard, adding thereto somewhat of what I myself have seen. The priests told me that Min was the first king of Egypt, and that first he  p387 separated Memphis from the Nile by a dam. All the river had flowed close under the sandy mountains on the Libyan side, but Min made the southern bend of it which begins about an hundred furlongs above Memphis, by damming the stream; thereby he dried up the ancient course, and carried the river by a channel so that it flowed midway between the hills. And to this day the Persians keep careful guard over this bend of the river, strengthening its dam every year, that it may keep the current in; for were the Nile to burst his dykes and overflow here, all Memphis were in danger of drowning. Then, when this first king Min had made what he thus cut off to be dry land, he first founded in it that city which is now called Memphis — for even Memphis lies in the narrow part of Egypt — and outside of it he dug a lake to its north and west, from the river (the Nile itself being the eastern boundary of the place); and secondly, he built in it the great and most noteworthy temple of Hephaestus.

100 Rawlinson p164 After him came three hundred and thirty kings, whose names the priests recited from a papyrus roll. In all these many generations there were eighteen Ethiopian kings, and one queen, native to the country; the rest were all Egyptian men. The name of the queen was the same as that of the Babylonian princess, Nitocris. She, to avenge her brother (he was king of Egypt and was slain by his subjects, who then gave Nitocris the sovereignty) put  p389 many of the Egyptians to death by guile. She built a spacious underground chamber; then, with the pretence of handselling it, but with far other intent in her mind, she gave a great feast, inviting to it those Egyptians whom she knew to have been most concerned in her brother's murder; and while they feasted she let the river in upon them by a great and secret channel. This was all that the priests told of her, save that also when she had done this she cast herself into a chamber full of hot ashes, thereby to escape vengeance.

101 Rawlinson p166 But of the other kings they related no achievement or deed of great note, save of Moeris, who was the last of them. This Moeris was remembered as having built the northern forecourt of the temple of Hephaestus, and dug a lake, of as many furlongs in circuit as I shall later show; and built there pyramids also, the size of which I will mention when I speak of the lake. All this was Moeris' work, they said; of none of the rest had they anything to record.

102 H & W Passing over these, therefore, I will now speak of the king who came after them, Sesostris.1 This king, said the priests, set out with a fleet of long ships2 from the Arabian Gulf and subdued all the dwellers by the Red Sea, till as he sailed on he came to a sea which was too shallow for his vessels. After returning thence back to Egypt, he gathered a great army (according to the story of the priests) and marched over the mainland, subduing every nation to  p391 which he came. When those that he met were valiant men and strove hard for freedom, he set up pillars in their land whereon the inscription showed his own name and his country's, and how he had overcome them with his own power; but when the cities had made no resistance and been easily taken, then he put an inscription on the pillars even as he had done where the nations were brave; but he drew also on them the privy parts of a woman, wishing to show clearly that the people were cowardly.

103 Rawlinson p169 Thus doing he marched over the country till he had passed over from Asia to Europe and subdued the Scythians and Thracians. Thus far and no farther, I think, the Egyptian army went; for the pillars can be seen standing in their country, but in none beyond it. Thence he turned about and went back homewards; and when he came to the Phasis river, it may be (for I cannot speak with exact knowledge) that King Sesostris divided off some part of his army and left it there to dwell in the country, or it may be that some of his soldiers grew weary of his wanderings, and stayed by the Phasis.

104 For it is plain to see that Colchians are Egyptians; and this that I say I myself noted before I heard it from others. When I began to think on this matter, I inquired of both peoples; and the Colchians remembered the Egyptians better than the Egyptians remembered the Colchians; the Egyptians said that they held the Colchians to be part of Sesostris' army. I myself guessed it to be  p393 so, partly because they are dark-skinned and woolly-haired; though that indeed goes for nothing, seeing that other peoples, too, are such; but my better proof was that the Colchians and Egyptians and Ethiopians are the only nations that have from the first practised circumcision. The Phoenicians and the Syrians of Palestine acknowledge of themselves that they learnt the custom from the Egyptians, and the Syrians of the valleys of the Thermodon and the Parthenius, as well as their neighbours the Macrones, say that they learnt it lately from the Colchians. These are the only nations that circumcise, and it is seen that they do even as the Egyptians. But as to the Egyptians and Ethiopians themselves, I cannot say which nation learnt it from the other; for it is manifestly a very ancient custom. That the others learnt it from intercourse with Egypt I hold to be clearly proved by this — that Phoenicians who hold intercourse with Hellas cease to imitate the Egyptians in this matter and do not circumcise their children.

105 Rawlinson p172 Nay, and let me speak of another matter in which the Colchians are like to the Egyptians; they and the Egyptians alone work linen, and have the same way, a way peculiar to themselves, of working it; and they are alike in all their manner of life, and in their speech. Linen has two names: the Colchian kind is called by the Greeks Sardonian;3 that which comes from Egypt is called Egyptian.

106 As to the pillars which Sesostris, king of Egypt, set up in the countries, most of them are no  p395 longer to be seen. But I myself saw them in the Palestine part of Syria, with the writing aforesaid and the women's privy parts upon them. Also there are in Ionia two figures4 of this man carven in rock, one on the road from Ephesus to Phocaea, and the other on that from Sardis to Smyrna. In both places there is a man of a height of four cubits and a half cut in relief, with a spear in his right hand and a bow in his left, and the rest of his equipment answering thereto; for it is both Egyptian and Ethiopian; and right across the breast from one shoulder to the other there is carven a writing in the Egyptian sacred character, saying: "I myself won this land with the might of my shoulders." There is nothing here to show who he is and whence he comes, but it is shown elsewhere. Some of those who have seen this figures guess them to be Memnon, but they are far indeed from the truth.

107 Rawlinson p176 H & W Now when this Egyptian Sesostris (so said the priests), being on his way homewards and bringing many men of the nations whose countries he had subdued, had come in his return to Daphnae of Pelusium, his brother, to whom he had given Egypt in charge, invited him and his sons to a banquet and then piled wood round the house and set it on fire. When Sesostris was aware of this, he took counsel at once with his wife, whom (it was said) he was bringing with him; and she counselled him to lay two of his six sons on the fire and to make a bridge over the burning whereby they might pass over the bodies of the two and escape. This Sesostris did;  p397 two of his sons were thus burnt, but the rest were saved alive with their father.

108 Rawlinson p177 Having returned to Egypt, and taken vengeance on his brother, Sesostris found work, as I shall show, for the multitude which he brought with him from the countries which he had subdued. It was these who dragged the great and long blocks of stone which were brought in this king's reign to the temple of Hephaestus; and it was they who were compelled to dig all the canals which are now in Egypt, and thus, albeit with no such intent, made what was before a land of horses and carts to be now without either. For from this time Egypt, albeit a level land, could use no horses or carts, by reason of the canals being so many and going every way. The reason why the king thus intersected the country was this: those Egyptians whose towns were not on the Nile but inland from it lacked water whenever the flood left their land, and drank only brackish water from wells.

109 Rawlinson p179 For this cause Egypt was intersected. This king moreover (so they said) divided the country among all the Egyptians by giving each an equal square parcel of land, and made this his source of revenue, appointing the payment of a yearly tax. And any man who was robbed by the river of a part of his land would come to Sesostris and declare what had befallen him; then the king would send men to look into it and measure the space by which the land was diminished, so that thereafter it should  p399 pay in proportion to the tax originally imposed. From this, of my thinking, the Greeks learnt the art of measuring land; the sunclock and the sundial, and the twelve divisions of the day, came to Hellas not from Egypt but from Babylonia.

110 H & W Sesostris was the only Egyptian king who also ruled Ethiopia. To commemorate his name, he set before the temple of Hephaestus two stone statues of himself and his wife, each thirty cubits high, and statues of his four sons, each of twenty cubits. Long afterwards Darius the Persian would have set up his statue before these; but the priest of Hephaestus forbade him, saying that he had achieved nothing equal to the deeds of Sesostris the Egyptian; for Sesostris (he said) had subdued the Scythians, besides as many other nations as Darius had conquered, and Darius had not been able to overcome the Scythians; therefore it was not just that Darius should set his statue before the statues of Sesostris, whose achievements he had not equalled. Darius, it is said, let the priest have his way.

111 Rawlinson p181 When Sesostris died, he was succeeded in the kingship (so said the priests) by his son Pheros.5 This king made no wars; and it happened that he became blind, for the following reason: the Nile came down in a flood such as never was before, rising to a height of eighteen cubits, and the water which overflowed the fields was roughened by a strong wind; then, it is said, the king was so infatuated that he took a spear and hurled it into the midst of the river eddies. Straightway after this he suffered from a disease of the eyes, and became blind. When he had been blind for ten years, an  p401 oracle from the city of Buto declared to him that the time of his punishment was drawing to an end, and that he should regain his sight by washing his eyes with the issue of a woman who had never had intercourse with any man but her own husband. Pheros made trial with his own wife first, and as he still remained blind, with all women, one after another. When he at last recovered sight, he took all the women of whom he had made trial, save only her who had made him to see again, and gathered them into one town, that which is now called "Red Clay"; where having collected them together he burnt them and the town; but the woman by whose means he had recovered sight he took to wife. Among the many offerings which he dedicated in all the noteworthy temples for his deliverance from blindness, most worthy of mention are the two marvellous stone obelisks which he set up in the temple of the Sun. Each of these is made of a single block, and is an hundred cubits high and eight cubits thick.

112 Rawlinson p183 Pheros was succeeded (they said) by a man of Memphis, whose name in the Greek language was Proteus. This Proteus has a fair and well-adorned temple precinct at Memphis, lying to the south of the temple of Hephaestus. Round the precinct dwell Phoenicians of Tyre, and the whole place is called the Camp of the Tyrians. There is in the precinct of Proteus a temple entitled the temple of the Stranger Aphrodite; this I guess to be a temple of Helen, daughter of Tyndareus, partly because I have heard the story of Helen's abiding with Proteus, and partly because it bears the name of  p403 the Stranger Aphrodite; for no other of Aphrodite's temples is called by that name.

113 Rawlinson p184 When I enquired of the priests, they told me that this was the story of Helen: — After carrying off Helen from Sparta, Alexandrus sailed away for his own country; violent winds caught him in the Aegean, and drove him into the Egyptian sea; whence (the wind not abating) he came to Egypt, to the mouth of the Nile called the Canopic mouth, and to the Salting-places. Now there was on the coast (and still is) a temple of Heracles; where if a servant of any man take refuge and be branded with certain sacred marks in token that he delivers himself to the god, such an one may not be touched. This law continues to‑day the same as it has ever been from the first. Hearing of the temple law, certain of Alexandrus' servants separated themselves from him, threw themselves on the mercy of the god, and brought an accusation against Alexandrus with intent to harm him, telling all the story of Helen and the wrong done to Menelaus. They laid this accusation before the priests and the warden of the Nile mouth, whose name was Thonis.

114 When Thonis heard it, he sent this message with all speed to Proteus at Memphis: "There has come hither a Teucrian stranger who has done great wrong in Hellas. He has deceived his host and robbed him of his wife, and brought her hither driven to your country by the wind, with very great store of wealth besides. Shall we suffer him to sail away unharmed, or take away from him that which  p405 he has brought?" Proteus sent back this message: "Whoever be this man who has done a wrong to his own host, seize him and bring him to me, that I may know what he will say."

115 Hearing this, Thonis seized Alexandrus and held his ships there, and presently brought him with Helen and all the wealth, and the suppliants therewith, to Memphis. All having come thither, Proteus asked Alexandrus who he was and whence he sailed; Alexandrus told him of his lineage and the name of his country, and of his voyage, whence he sailed. Then Proteus asked him whence he had taken Helen; Alexandrus made no straightforward or truthful answer; but the men who had taken refuge with the temple disproved his tale, and related the whole story of the wrongful act. When all was said, Proteus thus gave sentence: — "Were I not careful to slay no stranger who has ever been caught by the wind and driven to my coasts, I would have avenged that Greek upon you; seeing that, O basest of men! you have done foul wrong to him who hospitably entrusted you, and have entered in to the wife of your own host. Nay, and this did not suffice you; you made her to fly with you and stole her away. Nor was even this enough, but you have come hither with the plunder of your host's house. Now, therefore, since I am careful to slay no stranger, I will not suffer you to take away this woman and these possessions; I will keep them for the Greek stranger, till such time as he shall himself come to  p407 take them away; but as for you and the companions of your voyage, I warn you to depart from my country elsewhither within three days, else I will deal with you as with enemies."

116 Rawlinson p186 H & W This, by what the priests told me, was the manner of Helen's coming to Proteus. And, to my thinking, Homer too knew this story; but seeing that it suited not so well with epic poetry as the tale of which he made use, he rejected it of set purpose, showing withal that he knew it. This is plain, from the passage in the Iliad (and nowhere else does he return to the story) where he relates the wanderings of Alexandrus, and show how he with Helen was carried out his course, among other places, to Sidon in Phoenice. This is in the story of the Feats of Diomedes, where the verses run as follows:

There were the robes in his house, inwrought with manifold colours,

Work of the women of Sidon, whom godlike Paris aforetime

Brought from their eastern town, o'er wide seas voyaging thither,

E'en when he won from her home fair Helen, the daughter of princes.6

He makes mention of it in the Odyssey also:

Suchlike drugs of grace, for a healing cunningly mingled,

Once in the land of Nile had the wife of Thon, Polydamna,

Giv'n to the daughter of Zeus; for there of the country's abundance,

Potent to heal or to harm, are herbs full many engendered:7

 p409  and again Menelaus says to Telemachus:

Eager was I to return, but the gods fast held me in Egypt,

Wroth that I honoured them not nor offered a sacrifice duly.8

In these verses the poet shows that he knew of Alexandrus' wanderings to Egypt; for Syria borders on Egypt, and the Phoenicians, to whom Sidon belongs, dwell in Syria.

117 These verses and this passage prove most clearly that the Cyprian poems are by the hand not of Homer but of another. For the Cyprian poems relate that Alexandrus reached Ilion with Helen in three days from Sparta, having a fair wind and a smooth sea; but according to the Iliad he wandered from his course in bringing her.

118 Rawlinson p188 Enough, then, of Homer and the Cyprian poems. But when I asked the priests whether the Greek account of the Trojan business were vain or true, they gave me the following answer, saying that they had inquired and knew what Menelaus himself had said: — After the rape of Helen, a great host of Greeks came to the Teucrian land on Menelaus' behalf. Having there disembarked and encamped, they sent to Ilion messengers, of whom Menelaus himself was one. These, on coming within the city walls, demanded restitution of Helen and the possessions which Alexandrus had stolen from Menelaus and carried off, and reparation besides for the wrong done; but the Teucrians then and ever afterwards  p411 declared, with oaths and without, that neither Helen nor the goods claimed were with them, she and they being in Egypt; nor could they (so they said) justly make reparation for what was in the hands of the Egyptian king Proteus. But the Greeks thought that the Trojans mocked them, and therewith besieged the city, till they took it; and it was not till they took the fortress and found no Helen there, and heard the same declaration as before, that they gave credence to the Trojans' first word and so sent Menelaus himself to Proteus.

119 Menelaus then came to Egypt and went up the river to Memphis; there, telling the whole truth of what had happened, he was very hospitably entertained and received back Helen unharmed and all his possession withal. Yet, albeit so well entreated, Menelaus did the Egyptians a wrong. For when he would have sailed away he was stayed by stress of weather; and this hindrance continuing for long, he devised and did a forbidden deed, taking two children of the land and sacrificing them. When it was known that he had so done, the people hated and pursued him, and he fled away with his ships to Libya; and whither he thence betook himself the Egyptians could not say. The priests told me that they had learnt some of this tale by inquiry, but that they spoke with exact knowledge of what had happened in their own country.

120 So much was told me by the Egyptian priests. For myself, I believe their story about Helen: for I reason thus — that had Helen been in Ilion, then  p413 with or without the will of Alexandrus she should have been given back to the Greeks. For surely neither was Priam so mad, nor those nearest to him, as to consent to risk their own persons and their children and their city, that Alexandrus might have Helen to wife. Even be it granted that they were so minded in the first days, yet when not only many of the Trojans were slain in fighting against the Greeks, but Priam himself lost by death two or three or even more of his sons in every battle (if the poets are to be trusted), in this turn of affairs, had Helen been Priam's own wife, I cannot but think (for myself) that he would have restored her to the Greeks, if by so doing he could escape from the present evil plight. Nay, nor was Alexandrus next heir to the kingship, whereby he might have been the real ruler, Priam being old; it was Hector, an older and a more valiant man than Alexandrus, who was like to receive the royal power at Priam's death; and it was none of Hector's business to consent to his brother's wrongdoing, least of all when that brother was the cause of great calamity to Hector himself and the whole of Troy beside. But matters fell out as they did because the Trojans had not Helen there to give back, yet though they spoke the truth the Greeks would not believe them; for, as I am convinced and declare, the powers above ordained that the utter destruction of Troy should prove in the sight of all men that the gods do greatly punish great wrongdoing. This is my own belief and thus I declare it.

121 Rawlinson p190 The next to reign after Proteus (they said)  p415 was Rhampsinitus. The memorial of his name left by him was the western forecourt the temple of Hephaestus; before this he set two statues of twenty-five cubits' height; the northernmost of these is called by the Egyptians Summer, and the southernmost Winter; that one which they call Summer they worship and entreat well, but do contrariwise to the statue called Winter. This king (they told me) had great wealth of silver, so great that none of the later-born kings could surpass or nearly match it. That he might store his treasure safely, he made to be built a stone chamber, one of its walls abutting on the outer side of his palace. But the builder of it craftily contrived that one stone should be so placed as to be easily removed by two men or even by one. So when the chamber was finished, the king stored his treasure in it. But as time went on, the builder, being now near his end, called to him his two sons and told them how he had provided an ample livelihood for them by the art with which he had built the king's treasure-house; he made them clearly to understand concerning the removal of the stone, and gave the measurements which would find it; saying that if they kept these in mind they would be stewards of the king's riches. So when he was dead, his sons set to work with no long delay: coming to the palace by night, they easily found and  p417 handled the stone in the building, and took away much of the treasure. When the king opened the building, he was amazed to see the vessels lacking their full tale of treasure; yet he knew not whom to accuse, seeing that the seals were unbroken and the chamber fast shut. But when at the second and third opening of the chamber he saw the treasure grown ever less (for the thieves ceased not from plundering), he bid traps to be made and set about the vessels in which his riches lay. The thieves came as they had done before, and one of them crept in; when he came near the vessel, at once he was caught and held in the trap. Seeing his evil plight, he straightway called to his brother, and, showing him how matters stood, "Creep in quickly," said he, "and cut off my head, lest I be seen and recognised and so bring you too to ruin." The brother consented and did this, thinking the counsel good. Then he set the stone in place again, and went away home, carrying his brother's head. When it was morning the king came to the chamber, and was amazed to see the thief's headless body in the trap, yet the chamber unbroken, with no way of passing in or out; and he knew not what to do. But presently he hung the thief's dead body on the outer wall, and set guards over it, charging them to seize and bring before him whomsoever they should see weeping or making lamentation.

But the thief's mother, when the body had been so hung, was greatly moved: she talked with  p419 her surviving son, and bade him contrive by whatever means to loose and bring her his brother's body, threatening that if he would not obey her she would go to the king and lay an information that he had the treasure. So when she bitterly reproached him and for all he said he could not overpersuade her, the brother devised a plot: he got his asses and loaded them with skins full of wine and then drove them before him till he came near those who guard the hanging body; then he pulled at the feet of two or three of the skins and loosed their fastenings; and the wine so running out, he cried aloud and beat his head like one that knew not which of his asses he should deal with first. The guards, seeing the wine running freely, all took vessels and ran into the highway, where they caught the spilt wine, and thought themselves lucky; the man pretended to be angry and reviled each and all of them; but the guards speaking peaceably to him, he presently made as if he were comforted and appeased, till at last he drove his asses aside from the highway and put his gear in order. So the guards and he fell into talk, and one of them jesting with him, so that there was laughter, he gave them one of the skins: whereupon without more ado they sat down and began to drink, making him one of their company and bidding him stay and drink with them; and he consented and stayed. They drank to him merrily, and he gave them yet another of the skins, till the guards grew very drunk with the abundance of  p421 liquor, and at last being overmastered by sleep lay down in the place where they had been drinking. When the night was far spent, the thief cut down his brother's body and then (first shaving all the guard's right cheeks by way of insult) laid it on his asses and drove them home, having so fulfilled his mother's commands for her.

When the king was told of the stealing away of the dead thief's body he was very angry, and resolved by all means to find who it was that had plotted the deed. So he bade his daughter (such is the story, but I myself do not believe it) to sit in a certain room and receive alike all who came; before she had intercourse with any, she should compel him to tell her what was the cleverest trick and the greatest crime of his life; then if any told her the story of the thief she must seize him and not suffer him to pass out. The girl did as her father bade her. The thief, learning the purpose of the king's act, was minded to get the better of him by ready cunning. He therefore cut off the arm of a man newly dead at the shoulder, and went to the king's daughter, carrying it under his cloak, and when asked the same question as the rest, he told her that his greatest crime was the cutting off of his brother's head when the brother was caught in a trespass in the king's treasury, and his cleverest trick the release of his brother's hanging body by making the guards drunk. Hearing this, the princess would have laid hands on him, but the thief in  p423 the darkness giving her the dead man's arm, she seized that, thinking that she was grasping the arm of the thief, who, having given it to her, made his escape by way of the door.

When this also came to the king's ears, he was astonished at the man's ingenuity and daring, and in the end, he sent a proclamation to every town, promising the thief impunity and a great reward if he would come into the king's presence. The thief trusted the king and came before him; Rhampsinitus admired him greatly and gave him his daughter to wife for his surpassing cleverness, for as the Egyptians (said he) excelled all others in craft, so did he excel the Egyptians.

122 Rawlinson p194 H & W After this (said the priests) this king went down alive to the place which the Greeks call Hades; there he played dice with Demeter, and after both winning and losing he returned back with a gift from her of a golden napkin. From this descent of Rhampsinitus the Egyptians were said by the priests to have kept a festival after his return, which to my own knowledge they celebrate to this day, but whether it be for that cause I cannot say. On the day of this festival the priests weave a cloth and bind it for a headgear on the eyes of one among themselves, whom they then lead, wearing the cloth, into a road that goes to the temple of Demeter; they themselves return back, but this priest with his eyes bandaged is guided (say they) by two wolves9 to Demeter's temple, a distance of twenty furlongs from the city, and led back again from the temple by wolves to the same place.

 p425  123 These Egyptian stories are for the use of whosoever believes such tales: for myself, it is my rule throughout this history that I record whatever is told me as I have heard it.

It is believed in Egypt that the rulers of the lower world are Demeter and Dionysus.10 Moreover, the Egyptians were the first to teach that the human soul is immortal, and at the death of the body enters into some other living thing then coming to birth; and after passing through all creatures of land, sea, and air (which cycle it completes in three thousand years) it enters once more into a human body at birth. Some of the Greeks, early and late, have used this doctrine as if it were their own; I know their names, but do not here record them.

124 Rawlinson p197 Till the time of Rhampsinitus Egypt (so the priests told me) was in all ways well governed and greatly prospered, but Cheops, who was the next king, brought the people to utter misery. For first he shut up all the temples, so that none could sacrifice there; and next, he compelled all the Egyptians to work for him, appointing some to drag stones from the quarries in the Arabian mountains to the Nile: and the stones being carried across the river in boats, others were charged to receive and drag them to the mountains called Libyan. They worked in gangs of a hundred thousand men, each gang for three months. For ten years the people were afflicted in making the road whereon the stones were dragged, the making of which road was to my thinking a task but a little lighter than the building of the pyramid,11  p427 for the road is five furlongs long and ten fathoms broad, and raised at its highest to a height of eight fathoms, and it is all of stone polished and carven with figures. The ten years aforesaid went to the making of this road and of the underground chambers on the hill whereon the pyramids stand; these the king meant to be burial-places for himself, and encompassed them with water, bringing in a channel from the Nile. The pyramid itself was twenty years in the making. Its base was square, each side eight hundred feet long, and its height is the same; the whole is of stone polished and most exactly fitted; there is no block of less than thirty feet in length.

125 Rawlinson p201 H & W This pyramid was made like a stairway with tiers, or steps. When this, its first form, was completed, the workmen used levers made of short wooden logs to raise the rest of the stones;12 they heaved up the blocks from the ground on to the first tier of steps; when the stone had been so raised it was set on another lever that stood on the first tier, and a lever again drew it up from this tier to the next. It may be that there was a new lever on each tier of the steps, or perhaps there was but one lever, and that easily lifted, which they carried up to each tier in turn, when they had taken out the stone; I leave this uncertain, both ways being told me. But this is certain, that the upper part of the pyramid was the first finished off, then the next below it, and last of all the base and the lowest part. There are writings on13 the pyramid  p429 in Egyptian characters showing how much was spent on purges and onions and garlic for the workmen; and so far as I well remember, the interpreter when he read me the writing said that sixteen hundred talents of silver had been paid. Now if that is so, how much must needs have been expended on the iron with which they worked, and the workmen's food and clothing? seeing that the time aforesaid was spent in building, and the hewing and carrying of the stone and the digging out of the underground parts was, as I suppose, a business of long duration.

126 Rawlinson p203 H & W And so evil a man was Cheops that for lack of money he made his own daughter to sit in a chamber and exact payment (how much, I know not; for they did not tell me this). She, they say, doing her father's bidding, was minded to leave some memorial of her own, and demanded of everyone who sought intercourse with her that he should give one stone to set in her work; and of these stones was built the pyramid that stands midmost of the three, over against the great pyramid; each side of it measures one hundred and fifty feet.

127 Rawlinson p204 Cheops reigned (so the Egyptians said) for fifty years; at his death he was succeeded by his brother Chephren, who bore himself in all respects like Cheops. Chephren also built a pyramid, of a less size than his brother's. I have myself measured it. It has no underground chambers, nor is it entered  p431 like the other by a canal from the Nile, but the river comes in through a built passage and encircles an island, in which, they say, Cheopsº himself lies. This pyramid was built of the same bigness as the other, save that it falls forty feet short of it in height; it stands near to the great pyramid; the lowest layer of it is of variegated Ethiopian stone. Both of them stand on the same ridge, which is about an hundred feet high. Chephren, he said, reigned for fifty‑six years.

128 Thus they reckon that for a hundred and six years Egypt was in great misery and the temples so long shut were never opened. So much do the people hate the memory of these two kings that they do not greatly wish to name them, and call the pyramids after the shepherd Philitis, who then pastured his flocks in this place.14

129 The next king of Egypt, they said, was Cheops' son Mycerinus. He, being displeased with his father's doings, opened the temples and suffered the people, now ground down to the depth of misery, to go to their business and their sacrifices; and he was the justest judge among all the Greeks. It is on this account that he is praised beyond all the rulers of Egypt; for not only were his judgments just, but if any were not contented with the sentence Mycerinus would give such an one a present out of his own estate to satisfy him for his loss. Such was his practice, and so he ruled his people with clemency, yet calamities befel him, of which the first was the death of his daughter, the only child of his household. Greatly grieving  p433 over this misfortune, he desired to give her a burial something more excellent than ordinary; he made therefore a hollow cow's image of gilded wood and placed therein the body of his dead daughter.

130 Rawlinson p206 H & W This cow was not buried in the earth but was to be seen even in my time, in the town of Sais, where it lay in an adorned chamber of the palace; incense of all kinds is offered daily before it, and a lamp burns by it through every night. There is another chamber near to this image, where stand the statues of Mycerinus' concubines, as the priests of Sais told me; and indeed there are about twenty colossal wooden figures there, made like naked women, but I have only the priests' word to show who they are.

131 Some have a story about the cow and the statues, how Mycerinus conceived a passion for his own daughter and did her foul wrong, and she strangled herself for grief: then he buried her, they say, in this image of a cow; the girl's mother cut off the hands of the attendants who had betrayed the daughter to her father, so that now (it is said) their statues are in the plight to which the living women were brought. But this I believe to be a foolish tale, especially as respects the hands of the figures. As we ourselves saw, it is time which has made the hands to drop away; they were to be seen even in my day lying on the ground before the statues.

132 As for the cow, it is covered with a purple  p435 robe, and shows only the head and neck, which are encrusted with a very thick layer of gold. Between its horns it bears the golden figure of the sun's orb. It does not stand, but kneels; its stature is that of a live cow of great size. This image is carried out of the chamber once in every year, whenever the Egyptians make lamentation for the god whom I name not in speaking of these matters; it is then that the cow is brought out into the light, for Mycerinus' daughter, they say, entreated him at her death that she might see the sun once a year.15

133 After the grievous death of his daughter, it next happened to Mycerinus that an oracle was sent to him from the city of Buto, declaring that he had but six years to live and must die in the seventh. The king deemed this unjust, and sent back to the oracle a message of reproach, blaming the god: why must he die so soon who was pious, whereas his father and his uncle had lived long, who shut up the temples, and regarded not the gods, and destroyed men? But a second utterance from the place of divination declared to him that his good deeds were the very cause of shortening his life; for he had done what was contrary to fate; Egypt should have been afflicted for an hundred and fifty years, whereof the two kings before him had been aware, but not Mycerinus. Hearing this, he knew that his doom was fixed. Therefore he caused many lamps to be made, and would light these at nightfall and drink and make  p437 merry; by day or night he never ceased from revelling, roaming to the marsh country and the groves and wherever he heard of the likeliest places of pleasure. Thus he planned, that by turning night into day he might make his six years into twelve and so prove the oracle false.

134 Rawlinson p208 This king too left a pyramid, but far smaller than his father's; its sides form a square whereof each side is two hundred and eighty feet in length; as far as the half of its height it is of Ethiopian stone. Some Greeks say that it was built by Rhodopis, the courtesan, but they are in error; indeed it is clear to me that when they say they do not know who Rhodopis was, else they would never have credited her with the building of a pyramid whereon what I may call an uncountable sum of talents must have been expended. And it is a further proof of their error that Rhodopis flourished in the reign of Amasis, not of Mycerinus, and thus very many years after these kings who built the pyramids. She was a Thracian by birth, slave to Iadmon, son of Hephaestopolis, a Samian, and fellow-slave of Aesopus the story-writer. For he also was owned by Iadmon; of which the chiefest proof is that when the Delphians, obeying an oracle, issued many proclamations inviting whosoever would to claim the penalty for the killing of Aesopus, none would undertake it but only another Iadmon, grandson of the first. Thus was Aesopus too shown to be the slave of Iadmon.

135 Rawlinson p210 H & W Rhodopis was brought to Egypt by Xanthes of Samos, and on her coming was for a great sum of  p439 money freed for the practice of her calling by Charaxus of Mytilene, son of Scamandronymus and brother of Sappho the poetess. Thus Rhodopis was set free and abode in Egypt, where, her charms becoming well known, she grew wealthy enough for a lady of her profession, but not for the building of such a pyramid. Seeing that to this day anyone who wishes may know what was the tenth part of her possessions, she cannot be credited with great wealth. For Rhodopis desired to leave a memorial of herself in Greece, by having something made which no one else had contrived and dedicated in a temple and presenting this at Delphi to preserve her memory; so she spent the tenth part of her substance on the making of a great number of iron ox‑spits, as many as the tithe would pay for, and sent them to Delphi; these lie in a heap to this day, behind the altar set up by the Chians and in front of the shrine itself. It seems that the courtesans of Naucratis ever have the art of pleasing, for the woman of whom this story is told became so famous that all Greeks knew the name of Rhodopis, and in later days one Archidice was the theme of song throughout Greece, albeit less spoken of than the other. Charaxus, after giving Rhodopis her freedom, returned to Mytilene and was bitterly attacked by Sappho in one of her poems.

136 Rawlinson p212 Enough has been said of Rhodopis. After Mycerinus, said the priests, Asuchis became king of Egypt. He built the eastern outer court of Hephaestus' temple; this is by much the fairest and  p441 largest of all the courts, for while all have carven figures and innumerable graces of architecture, this court has far more than any. In this king's reign as they told me, money in Egypt passed not readily from hand to hand; wherefore a law was made that a man might borrow on the security of his father's dead body; and the law provided also, that the learner should have a lien on the whole burial-vault of the borrower, and that the penalty for the giver of this security, should he fail to repay the debt, should be that he might neither himself be buried at death nor bury any deceased of his kind either in that tomb of his fathers nor in any other. Moreover, being desirous of excelling all who ruled Egypt before him, this king left a pyramid of brick to commemorate his name, on which is this writing, cut on a stone: — "Deem me not less than the pyramids of stone; for I am as much more excellent than they as Zeus is than the other gods; for they struck a pole down into a marsh and collected what mud clave to the pole; therewith they made bricks, and thus was I built."

137 Rawlinson p215 These were the acts of Asuchis. After him reigned a blind man called Anysis, of the town of that name. In his reign Egypt was invaded by Sabacos king of Ethiopia and a great army of Ethiopians.16 The blind man fleeing away into the marshes, the Egyptians ruled Egypt for fifty years. It is  p443 recorded in the history of his reign that he would never put to death any Egyptian wrongdoer, but sentenced all, according to the greatness of their offence, to raise embankments in the town of which each was a native. Thus the towns came to stand yet higher than before; for having been first built on embankments made by the diggers of the canals in the reign of Sesostris, they were yet further raised in the reign of the Ethiopian. Other Egyptian towns, to my thinking, were so dealt with, but the level of Bubastis was raised more than any. In this town there is a temple of Bubastis, and it is a building most worthy of note. Other temples are greater and more costly, but none pleasanter to the eye than this. Bubastis is, in the Greek language, Artemis.

138 Rawlinson p216 H & W I will now show the form of her temple save for the entrance, it stands on an island; two separate channels approach it from the Nile, and after coming up to the entry of the temple, they run round it on opposite sides; each of them is an hundred feet wide, and overshadowed by trees. The outer court has a height of ten fathoms, and is adorned with notable figures six cubits high. The temple is in the midst of the city, the whole circuit of which commands a view down into it; for the city's level has been raised, but that of the temple has been left as it was from the first, so that it can be seen into from without. A stone wall, carven with figures, runs round it; within is a grove of very tall trees growing round a great shrine, wherein is the image of the goddess; the temple is a square, each side measuring a furlong.  p445 A road, paved with stone, of about three furlongs' length leads to the entrance, running eastward through the market place, towards the temple of Hermes; this road is about four hundred feet wide, and bordered by trees reaching to heaven. Such is this temple.

139 Now the departure of the Ethiopian (they said) was accomplished on this wise. He fled away from the country, having seen in a dream one who stood over him and counselled him to gather together all the priests in Egypt and cut them in sunder. Having seen this vision, he said that he supposed it to be a manifestation sent to him by the gods, that he might commit sacrilege and so be punished by gods or men; he would not (he said) act so, but otherwise, for the time foretold for his rule over Egypt, after which he was to depart, was now fulfilled: for when he was still in Ethiopia the oracles which are inquired of by the people of that country declared to him that he was fated to reign fifty years over Egypt. Seeing that this time was now completed and that he was troubled by what he saw in his dream, Sabacos departed from Egypt of his own accord.

140 Rawlinson p218 The Ethiopian having left Egypt, the blind man (it is said) was king once more, returning from the marshes, where he had dwelt fifty years on an island which he built of ashes and earth; for the Egyptians, who were severally charged to bring him food without the Ethiopian's knowledge, were bidden by the king to bring ashes whenever they came, as their gift. This island was never discovered before the time of Amyrtaeus; all the kings before him sought it in vain  p447 for more than seven hundred years. The name of it is Elbo, and it is ten furlongs long and of an equal breadth.

141 The next king was the priest of Hephaestus, whose name was Sethos. He despised and took no account of the warrior Egyptians, thinking he would never need them; besides otherwise dishonouring them, he took away the chosen lands which had been given to them, twelve fields to each man, in the reign of former kings. So presently came king Sanacharib17 against Egypt, with a great host of Arabians and Assyrians; and the warrior Egyptians would not march against him. The priest, in this quandary, went into the temple shrine and there bewailed to the god's image the peril which threatened him. In his lamentation he fell asleep, and dreamt that he saw the god standing over him and bidding him take courage, for he should suffer no ill by encountering the host of Arabia: "Myself," said the god, "will send you champions." So he trusted the vision, and encamped at Pelusium with such Egyptians as would follow him, for here is the road into Egypt; and none of the warriors would go with him, but only hucksters and artificers and traders. Their enemies too came thither, and one night a multitude of fieldmice18 swarmed over the Assyrian camp and devoured their quivers and their bows and the handles of their shields likewise, insomuch  p449 that they fled the next day unarmed and many fell. And at this day a stone statue of the Egyptian king stands in Hephaestus' temple, with a mouse in his hand, and an inscription to this effect: "Look on me, and fear the gods."

142 Thus far went the record given me by the Egyptians and their priests; and they showed me that the time from the first king to that priest of Hephaestus, who was the last, covered three hundred and forty‑one generations of men, and that in this time such also had been the number of their kings, and of their high priests. Now three hundred generations make up ten thousand years, three generations being equal to a century. And over and above the three hundred the remaining forty‑one cover thirteen hundred and forty years. Thus the whole sum is eleven thousand three hundred and forty years; in all which time (they said) they had had no king who was a god in human form, nor had there been any such thing either before or after those years among the rest of the kings of Egypt. Four times in this period (so they told me) the sun rose contrary to his wont; twice he rose where he now sets, and twice he set where now he rises; yet Egypt at these times underwent no change, neither in the produce of the river and the land, nor in the matter of sickness and death.

143 H & W Hecataeus19 the historian was once at Thebes, where he made for himself a genealogy which connected him by lineage with a god in the sixteenth  p451 generation. But the priests did for him what they did for me (who had not traced my own lineage). They brought me into the great inner court of the temple and showed me there wooden figures which they counted up to the number they had already given, for every high priest sets there in his lifetime a statue of himself; counting and pointing to these, the priests showed me that each inherited from his father; they went through the whole tale of figures, back to the earliest from that of him who had lateliest died. Thus when Hecataeus had traced his descent and claimed that his sixteenth forefather was a god, the priests too traced a line of descent according to the method of their counting; for they would not be persuaded by him that a man could be descended from a god; they traced descent through the whole line of three hundred and forty-five figures, not connecting it with any ancestral god or hero, but declaring each figure to be a "Piromis" the son of a "Piromis," that is, in the Greek language, one who is in all respects a good man.

144 Rawlinson p222 Thus they showed that all whose statues stood there had been good men, but wholly unlike gods. Before these men, they said, the rulers of Egypt were gods, but none had been contemporary with the human priests. Of these gods one or other had in succession been supreme; the last of them to rule the country was Osiris' son Horus, called by the Greeks Apollo; he deposed Typhon,20 and was the last divine king of Egypt. Osiris is in the Greek language, Dionysus.

 p453  145 Among the Greeks, Heracles, Dionysus, and Pan are held to be the youngest of the gods. But in Egypt Pan21 is the most ancient of these and is one of the eight gods who are said to be the first of all, Heracles belongs to the second dynasty (that of the so‑called twelve gods), and Dionysus to the third, which came after the twelve. How many years there were between Heracles and the reign of Amasis, I have already shown; Pan is said to be earlier still; the years between Dionysus and Amasis are the fewest, and they are reckoned by the Egyptians at fifteen thousand. Of all this the Egyptians claim to have certain knowledge, seeing that they had always reckoned the years and chronicled them in writing. Now the Dionysus who was called the son of Semele, daughter of Cadmus, was about sixteen hundred years before my time, and Heracles son of Alcmene about nine hundred years; and Pan the son of Penelope (for according to the Greeks Penelope and Hermes were the parents of Pan) was about eight hundred years before me, and thus of a later date than the Trojan war.

146 Rawlinson p224 H & W With regard to these two, Pan and Dionysus, a man may follow whatsoever story he deems most credible; but I here declare my own opinion concerning them: — Had Dionysus son of Semele and Pan son of Penelope been made manifest in Hellas and lived there to old age, like Heracles the son of Amphitryon, it might have been said that they too (like Heracles) were but men, named after the older Pan and Dionysus, the gods of antiquity; but as it is, the Greek story has it that no sooner was Dionysus born than Zeus sewed him up in his thigh and carried  p455 him away to Nysa in Ethiopia beyond Egypt; and as for Pan, the Greeks know not what became of him after his birth. It is therefore plain to me that the Greeks learnt the names of these two gods later than the names of all the others, and trace the birth of both to the time when they gained the knowledge.

147 Thus far I have recorded what the Egyptians themselves say. I will now relate what is recorded alike by Egyptians and foreigners to have happened in that land, and I will add thereto something of what I myself have seen.

After the reign of the priest of Hephaestus the Egyptians were made free. But they could never live without a king, so they divided Egypt into twelve portions and set up twelve kings. These kings intermarried, and agreed to be close friends, undertaking not to depose one another nor to seek to possess one more than another. The reason of this agreement, which they zealously guarded, was this: at their very first establishment in their several lordships an oracle was given them that that one of them who poured a libation from a bronze vessel in the temple of Hephaestus (where, as in all the temples, it was their wont to assemble) should be king of all Egypt.

148 Rawlinson p226 Moreover they resolved to preserve the memory of their names by some joint enterprise; and having so resolved they made a labyrinth,22 a little way beyond the lake Moeris and near the place called the City of Crocodiles. I have myself seen it, and indeed no words can tell its wonders;23 were all that Greeks have builded and wrought added together  p457 the whole would be seen to be a matter of less labour and cost than was this labyrinth, albeit the temples at Ephesus and Samos are noteworthy buildings. Though the pyramids were greater than words can tell, and each one of them a match for many great monuments built by Greeks, this maze surpasses even the pyramids. It has twelve roofed courts, with doors over against each other: six face the north and six the south, in two continuous lines, all within one outer wall. There are also double sets of chambers, three thousand altogether, fifteen hundred above and the same number under ground. We ourselves viewed those that are above ground, and speak of what we have seen; of the underground chambers we were only told; the Egyptian wardens would by no means show them, these being, they said, the burial vaults of the kings who first built this labyrinth, and of the sacred crocodiles. Thus we can only speak from hearsay of the lower chambers; the upper we saw for ourselves, and they are creations greater than human. The outlets of the chambers and the mazy passages hither thither through the courts were an unending marvel to us as we passed from court to apartment and from apartment to colonnade, from colonnades again to more chambers and then into yet more courts. Over all this is a roof, made of stone like the walls, and the walls are covered with carven figures, and every  p459 court is set round with pillars of white stone most exactly fitted together. Hard by the corner where the labyrinth ends there stands a pyramid forty fathoms high, whereon great figures are carved. A passage has been made into this underground.

149 Rawlinson p228 H & W Such is this labyrinth; and yet more marvellous is the lake Moeris, by which it stands. This lake has a circuit of three thousand six hundred furlongs, or sixty schoeni, which is as much as the whole seaboard of Egypt. Its length is from north to south; the deepest part has a depth of fifty fathoms. That it has been dug out and made by men's hands the lake shows for itself; for almost in the middle of it stand two pyramids, so built that fifty fathoms of each are below and fifty above the water; atop of each is a colossal stone figure seated on a throne. Thus these pyramids are a hundred fathoms high; and a hundred fathoms equal a furlong of six hundred feet, the fathom measuring six feet or four cubits, the foot four spans and the cubit six spans. The water of the lake is not natural (for the country here is exceeding waterless) but brought by a channel from the Nile; six months it flows into the lake, and six back into the river. For the six months that it flows from the lake, the daily take of fish brings a silver talent into the royal treasury, and twenty minae for each day of the flow into the lake.

 p461  150 Rawlinson p230 H & W Further, the people of the country said that this lake issues by an underground stream into the Libyan Syrtis, and stretches inland towards the west along the mountains that are above Memphis. I could not anywhere see the earth taken from the digging of the lake, and this giving me matter for thought, I asked those who dwelt nearest to the lake where the stuff was that had been dug out. They told me whither it had been carried, and I readily believed them, for I had heard of a like thing happening in the Assyrian city of Ninus. Sardanapallus king of Ninus had great wealth, which he kept in an underground treasury. Certain thieves were minded to carry it off; they reckoned their course and dug an underground way from their own house to the palace, carrying the earth taken out the dug passage at night to the Tigris, which runs past Ninus, till at length they accomplished their desire. This, I was told, had happened when the Egyptian lake was dug, save only that the work went on not by night but by day. The Egyptians bore the earth dug out by them to the Nile, to be caught and scattered (as was to be thought) by the river. Thus is this lake said to have been dug.

151 Now the twelve kings dealt justly; and as time went on they came to sacrifice in Hephaestus' temple. On the last day of the feast, they being about to pour libations, the high priest brought out the golden vessels which they commonly used for this; but he counted wrongly and gave the twelve only eleven. So he who stood last of them, Psammetichus, got no vessel; wherefore taking off his  p463 bronze helmet he held it out and poured the libation with it. All the other kings too were wont to wear helmets, and were then helmeted; it was not in guile, then, that Psammetichus held out his headgear; but the rest marked Psammetichus' deed, and remembered the oracle which promised the sovereignty of all Egypt to whosoever should pour libation from a vessel of bronze; wherefore, though they deemed Psammetichus not to deserve death (for they proved him and found that he had acted without intent), they resolved to strip him of the most of his power and chase him away into the marshes, and that he was not to concern himself with the rest of Egypt.

152 This Psammetichus had formerly been in Syria, whither he had fled from Sabacos the Ethiopian, who killed his father Necos; then, when the Ethiopian departed by reason of what he saw in a dream, the Egyptians of the province of Sais brought him back from Syria; and now Psammetichus was for the second time king, when it happened to him to be driven away into the marshes by the eleven kings by reason of the matter of the helmet. Therefore he held himself to have been outrageously dealt with by them and had a mind to be avenged on those who had expelled him, and he sent to inquire of the oracle of Leto in the town of Buto, which is the most infallible in Egypt; the oracle answered that he should have vengeance when he saw men of bronze coming from the sea. Psammetichus secretly disbelieved that men of bronze should come to aid him. But after no long time, certain Ionians and Carians, voyaging for plunder, were forced to put in on the coast of Egypt, where they disembarked in  p465 their mail of bronze; and an Egyptian came into the marsh country and brought news to Psammetichus (for he had never before seen mailed men) that men of bronze were coming from the sea and were foraging in the plain. Psammetichus saw in this the fulfilment of the oracle; he made friends with the Ionians and Carians, and promised them great rewards if they would join him, and having won them, with the aid of such Egyptians as consented and these allies he deposed the eleven kings.

153 Rawlinson p233 Having made himself master of all Egypt, he made the southern outercourt of Hephaestus' temple at Memphis, and built over against this a court for Apis, where Apis is kept and fed whenever he appears; this court has an inner colonnade all round it and many carved figures; the roof is held up by great statues twelve cubits high for pillars. Apis is in the Greek language Epaphus.

154 Rawlinson p234 The Ionians and Carians who had helped him to conquer were given by Psammetichus places to dwell in called The Camps, opposite to each other on either side of the Nile; and besides this he paid them all that he had promised. Moreover he put Egyptian boys in their hands to be taught the Greek tongue; these, learning Greek, were the ancestors of the Egyptian interpreters. The Ionians and Carians dwelt a long time in these places, which are near the sea, on the arm of the Nile called the Pelusian, a little way below the town of Bubastis.  p467 Long afterwards, king Amasis removed them thence and settled them at Memphis, to be his guard against the Egyptians. It comes of our intercourse with these settlers in Egypt (who were the first men of alien speech to settle in that country) that we Greeks have exact knowledge of the history of Egypt from the reign of Psammetichus onwards. There still remained till my time, in the places whence the Ionians and Carians were removed, the landing engines24 of their ships and the ruins of their houses.

155 H & W This is the story of Psammetichus' conquest of Egypt. I have often made mention of the Egyptian oracle, and I will now treat fully of it, for this it deserves. This Egyptian oracle is in a temple sacred to Leto, and is situated in a great city by the Sebennytic arm of the Nile, on the way upon from the sea. The name of the city where is this oracle is Buto; I have already named it. In Buto there is a temple of Apollo and Artemis. The shrine of Leto in which is the oracle is itself very great, and its outer court is ten fathoms high. But I will now tell of what was the most marvellous among things visible there: in this precinct is the shrine of Leto, whereof the height and length of the walls is all made of a single stone slab; each wall has an equal length and height, namely, forty cubits. Another slab makes the surface of the roof, the cornice of which is four cubits broad.

 p469  156 Rawlinson p237 Thus then the shrine is the most marvellous of all things that I saw in this temple; but of things of lesser note, the most wondrous is the island called Chemmis. This lies in a deep and wide lake near to the temple at Buto, and the Egyptians say that it floats. For myself I never saw it float, nor move at all, and I thought it a marvellous tale, that an island should truly float. However that be, there is a great shrine of Apollo thereon, and three altars stand there; many palm trees grow in the island, and other trees too, some yielding fruit and some not. The story told by the Egyptians to show why the island moves is this: when Typhon came seeking through the world for the son of Osiris, Leto, being one of the eight earliest gods, and dwelling in Buto where this oracle of hers is, received Apollo in charge from Isis and hid him for safety in this island which was before immovable but is now said to float. Apollo and Artemis were (they say) children of Dionysus and Isis, and Leto was made their nurse and preserver; in Egyptian, Apollo is Horus, Demeter Isis, Artemis Bubastis. It was from this and no other legend that Aeschylus son of Euphorion stole an imagination, which is in no other poet, that Artemis was the daughter of Demeter. For the aforesaid reason (say the Egyptians) the island was made to float. Such is the tale.

157 Rawlinson p238 Psammetichus ruled Egypt for fifty-four years; for twenty-nine of these he sat before Azotus,  p471 a great city in Syria, and besieged it till he took it. Azotus held out against a siege longer than any city of which I have heard.

158 Psammetichus had a son Necos, who became king of Egypt. It was he who began the making of the canal into the Red Sea,25 which was finished by Darius the Persian. This is four days' voyage in length, and it was dug wide enough for two triremes to move in it rowed abreast. It is fed by the Nile, and is carried from a little above Bubastis by the Arabian town of Patumus; it issues into the Red Sea. The beginning of the digging was in the part of the Egyptian plain which is nearest to Arabia; the mountains that extend to Memphis (in which mountains are the stone quarries) come close to this plain; the canal is led along the lower slope of these mountains in a long reach from west to east; passing then into a ravine it bears southward out of the hill country towards the Arabian Gulf. Now the shortest and most direct passage from the northern to the southern or Red Sea is from the Casian promontory, which is the boundary between Egypt and Syria, to the Arabian Gulf, and this is a distance of one thousand furlongs, neither more nor less; this is the most direct way, but the canal is by much longer, inasmuch as it is more crooked. In Necos' reign a hundred and twenty thousand Egyptians perished in the digging of it. During the course of excavations, Necos ceased from the work, being stayed by a prophetic  p473 utterance that he was toiling beforehand for the barbarian. The Egyptians call all men of other languages barbarian.

159 Rawlinson p242 H & W Necos then ceased from making the canal and engaged rather in warlike preparation; some of his ships of war were built on the northern sea, and some in the Arabian Gulf, by the Red Sea coast: the landing-engines of these are still to be seen. He used these ships at need, and with his land army met and defeated the Syrians at Magdolus,26 taking the great Syrian city of Cadytis27 after the battle. He sent to Branchidae of Miletus and dedicated there to Apollo the garments in which he won these victories. Presently he died after a reign of sixteen years, and his son Psammis reigned in his stead.

160 Rawlinson p244 While this Psammis was king of Egypt he was visited by ambassadors from Elis, the Eleans boasting that they had ordered the Olympic games with all the justice and fairness in the world, and claiming that even the Egyptians, albeit the wisest of all men, could not better it. When the Eleans came to Egypt and told the purpose of their coming, Psammis summoned an assembly of those who were said to be the wisest men in Egypt. These assembled, and inquired of the Eleans, who told them of the rules of the games which they must obey, and, having declared these, said they had come that if the Egyptians could invent any juster way they might learn this too. The Egyptians consulted together, and then asked the Eleans if their own townsmen took part in the contests. The Eleans answered that this was so: all Greeks from Elis or elsewhere  p475 might contend. Then the Egyptians said that this rule was wholly wide of justice: "For," said they, "it cannot be but that you will favour your own townsmen in the contest and deal unfairly by a stranger. Nay, if you will indeed make just rules and have therefore come to Egypt, you should admit only strangers to the contest, and not Eleans." Such was the counsel of the Egyptians to the Eleans.

161 Psammis reigned over Egypt for six years only; he invaded Ethiopia, and immediately thereafter died, and Apries28 his son reigned in his stead. He was more fortunate than any former king (save only his great-grandfather Psammetichus) during his rule of twenty-five years, in which he sent an army against Sidon and did battle by sea with the king of Tyre. But when it was fated that ill should befall him, the cause of it was one that I will now deal with briefly, and at greater length in the Libyan part of this history. Apries sent a great host against Cyrene and suffered a great defeat. The Egyptians blamed him for this and rebelled against him; for they thought that Apries had knowingly sent his men to their doom, that by their so perishing he might be the safer in his rule over the rest of the Egyptians. Bitterly angered by this, those who returned home and the friends of the slain openly revolted.

162 Rawlinson p246 H & W Hearing of this, Apries sent Amasis to them to persuade them from their purpose. When Amasis came up with the Egyptians he exhorted them to  p477 desist from what they did; but while he spoke an Egyptian came behind him and put a helmet on his head, saying it was the token of royalty. And Amasis showed that this was not displeasing to him, for being made king by the rebel Egyptians he prepared to march against Apries. When Apries heard of it, he sent against Amasis an esteemed Egyptian named Patarbemis, one of his own court, charging him to take the rebel alive and bring him into his presence. Patarbemis came, and summoned Amasis, who lifted his leg with an unseemly gesturea (being then on horseback) and bade the messenger take that token back to Apries. But when Patarbemis was nevertheless instant that Amasis should obey the king's summons and go to him — such is the story — Amasis answered that he had long been making ready to do this, and Apries should be well satisfied with him: for I will come myself," quoth he, "and bring others with me." Hearing this, Patarbemis could not mistake Amasis' purpose; he saw his preparations and made haste to depart, that he might with all speed make known to the king what was afoot. When Apries saw him return without Amasis he gave him no chance to speak, but in his rage and fury bade cut off Patarbemis' ears and nose. The rest of the Egyptians, who still favoured his cause, seeing the foul despite thus done to the man who was most esteemed among them, changed sides without more ado and delivered themselves over to Amasis.

163 This news too being brought to Apries, he  p479 armed his guard and marched against the Egyptians; he had a bodyguard of Carians and Ionians, thirty thousand of them, and his royal dwelling was in the city of Saïs, a great and marvellous palace. Apries' men marched against the Egyptians, and so did Amasis' men against the strangers; so they came both to Momemphis, where it was their purpose to prove each other's quality.

164 The Egyptians are divided into seven classes, severally entitled priests, warriors, cowherds, swineherds, hucksters, interpreters, and pilots. So many classes there are, each named after its vocation. The warriors are divided into Kalasiries and Hermotubies, and they belong to the following provinces (for all divisions in Egypt are made according to provinces).

165 Rawlinson p249 The Hermotubies are of the provinces of Busiris, Sais, Chemmis, and Papremis, the island called Prosopitis, and half of Natho — all of these; their number, at its greatest, attained to a hundred and sixty thousand. None of these has learnt any common trade; they are free to follow arms alone.

166 The Kalasiries for their part are of the provinces of Thebes, Bubastis, Aphthis, Tanis, Mendes, Sebennys, Athribis, Pharbaïthis, Thmuis, Onuphis, Anytis, Myecphoris (this last is in an island over against the city of Bubastis) — all these; their number, at its greatest, attained to two hundred and fifty thousand men. These too may practise  p481 no trade but only war, which is their hereditary calling.

167 Rawlinson p252 Now whether this separation, like other customs, has come to Greece from Egypt, I cannot exactly judge. I know that in Thrace and Scythia and Persia and Lydia and nearly all foreign countries those who learn trades and their descendants are held in less esteem than the rest of the people, and those who have nothing to do with artisans' work, especially men who are free to practise the art of war, are highly honoured. Thus much is certain, that this opinion, which is held by all Greeks and chiefly by the Lacedaemonians, is of foreign origin. It is in Corinth that artisans are held in least contempt.

168 The warriors were the only Egyptians, except the priests, who had special privileges: for each of them there was set apart an untaxed plot of twelve acres. This acre is a square of a hundred Egyptian cubits each way, the Egyptian cubit being equal to the Samian. These lands were set apart for all; it was never the same men who cultivated them, but each in turn.29 A thousand Kalasiries and as many Hermotubies were the king's annual bodyguard. These men, besides their lands, received each a daily provision of five minae's weight of roast grain, two minae of beef, and four cups of wine. These were the gifts received by each bodyguard.

169 H & W When Apries with his guards and Amasis with the whole force of Egyptians came to the town of Momemphis, they joined battle; and though the foreigners fought well, they were by much the fewer, and therefore were worsted. Apries, they say,  p483 supposed that not even a god could depose him from his throne; so firmly he thought he was established; and now being worsted in battle and taken captive he was brought to Sais, to the royal dwelling which belonged once to him but now to Amasis. There he was sustained for a while in the palace, and well treated by Amasis. But presently the Egyptians complained that there was no justice in allowing one who was their own and their king's bitterest enemy to live; whereupon Amasis gave Apries up to them, and they strangled him and then buried him in the burial-place of his fathers. This is in the temple of Athene, very near to the sanctuary, on the left of the entrance. The people of Sais buried within the temple precinct all kings who were natives of their province. The tomb of Amasis is farther from the sanctuary than the tomb of Apries and his ancestors; yet it also is within the temple court; it is a great colonnade of stone, richly adorned, the pillars whereof are wrought in the form of palm trees. In this colonnade are two portals, and the place where the coffin lies is within their doors.

170 Rawlinson p255 There is also at Sais the burial-place of him whose name I deem it forbidden to utter in speaking of such a matter; it is in the temple of Athene, behind and close to the whole length of the wall of the shrine. Moreover great stone obelisks stand in the precinct; and there is a lake hard by, adorned with a stone margin and wrought to a complete circle; it is, as it seemed to me, of the bigness of the lake at Delos which they call the Round Pond.

 p485  171 Rawlinson p256 On this lake they enact by night the story of the god's sufferings, a rite which the Egyptians call the Mysteries. I could speak more exactly of these matters, for I know the truth, but I will hold my peace; nor will I say aught concerning that rite of Demeter which the Greeks call Thesmophoria,30 saving such part of it as I am not forbidden to mention. It was the daughters of Danaus who brought this rite out of Egypt and taught it to the Pelasgian women; afterwards, when the people of Peloponnesus were driven out by the Dorians, it was lost, except in so far as it was preserved by the Arcadians alone, the Peloponnesian nation that was not driven out but left in its home.

172 Rawlinson p259 Apries being thus deposed, Amasis became king; he was of a town called Siuph in the province of Sais. Now at first he was contemned and held in but little regard by the Egyptians, as having been but a common man and of no high family: but presently he won them to him by being cunning and not arrogant. He had among his countless treasures a golden foot-bath, in which he and all those who feasted with him were ever wont to wash their feet. This he broke in pieces and made thereof a god's image, which he set in the most fitting place in the city; and the Egyptians came ever and anon to this image and held it in great reverence. When Amasis knew what the townsmen did, he called the Egyptians together and told them that the image had been made out of the foot-bath; once (said he)  p487 his subjects had washed their feet in it and put it to yet viler uses;b now they greatly revered it. "So now" (quoth he to them) "it has fared with me as with the foot-bath; once I was a common man, now I am your king; it is your duty to honour me and hold me in regard."

173 Rawlinson p260 In this manner he won the Egyptians to consent to be his slaves; and this is how he ordered his affairs: in the morning, till the filling of the market place, he wrought zealously at such business as came before him; the rest of the day he spent in drinking and jesting with his boon companions in idle and sportive mood. But this displeased his friends, who thus admonished him: "O King, you are ill guided so to demean yourself. We would have you sit aloft on a throne of pride all day doing your business; thus would the Egyptians know that they have a great man for their ruler, and you would have the better name among them; but now your behaviour is nowise royal." "Nay," Amasis answered them, "men that have bows bend them at need only; were bows kept for ever bent they would break, and so would be of no avail when they were needed. Such too is the nature of men. Were they to be ever at serious work nor permit themselves a fair share of sport they would go mad or silly ere they knew it; I am well aware of that, and give each of the two its turn." Such was his answer to his friends.

174 H & W It is said that before Amasis was a king he  p489 was a man nowise serious-minded but much given to drinking and jesting; and when his drinking and merrymaking brought him to penury, he would wander around and steal from one and another. Then those others, when he denied the charge that he had taken their possessions, would bring him to whatever place of divination was nearest them; and the oracles often declared him guilty and often acquitted him. When he became king, he took no care of the shrines of the gods who had acquitted him of theft, nor gave them aught for maintenance, nor made it his practice to sacrifice there, for he deemed them to be worthless and their oracles to be false; but he tended with all care the gods who had declared his guilt, holding them to be gods in very truth and their oracles infallible.

175 Amasis made a marvellous outer court for the temple of Athene31 at Saïs, surpassing, in height and grandeur, and in the size and splendour of the stones, all who had erected such buildings; more, he set up huge images and vast man‑headed sphinxes,32 and brought enormous blocks of stone besides for the building. Some of these he brought from the stone quarries of Memphis; those of greatest size came from the city Elephantine,33 distant twenty days' journey by river from Saïs. But let me now tell of what I hold the most marvellous of his works. He brought from Elephantine a shrine made of one single block of stone; three years it  p491 was in the bringing, and two thousand men were charged with the carriage of it, pilots all of them. This chamber measures in outer length twenty‑one cubits, in breadth fourteen, in height eight. These are the outer measurements of the chamber which is made of one block; its inner length is of eighteen cubits and four-fifths of a cubit, and its height of five cubits.c It lies by the entrance of the temple; the reason why it was not dragged within into the temple was (so they say), that while it was being drawn the chief builder groaned aloud for the much time spent and his weariness of the work, and Amasis taking this to heart would not suffer it to be drawn further. Some again say that a man, one of them that heaved up the shrine, was crushed by it, and therefore it was not dragged within.

176 Rawlinson p264 Moreover Amasis dedicated, besides monuments of marvellous size in all the other temples of note, the huge image that lies supine before Hephaestus' temple at Memphis; this image is seventy-five feet in length; there stand on the same base, on either side of the great image, two huge statues hewn from the same block, each of them twenty feet high. There is at Saïs another stone figure of like bigness, lying as lies the figure at Memphis. It was Amasis, too, who built the great and most marvellous temple of Isis at Memphis.

177 It is said that in the reign of Amasis Egypt attained to its greatest prosperity, in respect of what  p493 the river did for the land and the land for its people: and that the whole sum of inhabited cities in the country was twenty thousand. It was Amasis also who made the law that every Egyptian should yearly declare his means of livelihood to the ruler of his province, and, failing so to do or to prove that he had a just way of life, be punished with death. Solon the Athenian got this law from Egypt and established it among his people; may they ever keep it! for it is a perfect law.

178 Rawlinson p266 Amasis became a lover of the Greeks, and besides other services which he did to some of them he gave those who came to Egypt the city of Naucratis to dwell in, and to those who voyaged to the country without desire to settle there he gave lands where they might set altars and make holy places for their gods. Of these the greatest and most famous and most visited precinct is that which is called the Hellenion, founded jointly by the Ionian cities of Chios, Teos, Phocaea, and Clazomenae, the Dorian cities of Rhodes, Cnidus, Halicarnassus, and Phaselis, and one Aeolian city, Mytilene. It is to these that the precinct belongs, and these are they that appoint wardens of the port; if any others claim rights therein they lay claim to that wherein they have no part or lot. The Aeginetans made a precinct of their own, sacred to Zeus; and so did the Samians for Here and the Milesians for Apollo.

179 H & W Naucratis was in old time the only trading port in Egypt. Whosoever came to any other mouth of the Nile must swear that he had not come of his  p495 own will, and having so sworn must then take his ship and sail to the Canobic mouth; or, if he could not sail against contrary winds, he must carry his cargo in barges round the Delta till he came to Naucratis. In such honour was Naucratis held.

180 Rawlinson p268 When the Amphictyons had contracted for three hundred talents the work of finishing the temple that now stands at Delphi (that which was formerly there having been burnt by pure mischance), it fell to the Delphians to provide a fourth part of the cost. They went about from city to city collecting gifts, and in this business they got most from Egypt; for Amasis gave them a thousand talents' weight of astringent earth,34 and the Greek dwellers in Egypt twenty minae.

181 Amasis made friends and allies of the people of Cyrene. Moreover he thought fit to take himself a wife from thence; whether it was that he desired a Greek woman, or that he had other cause for winning the friendship of Cyrene, I know not; but he married one Ladice, said to be the daughter of Battus by some, of Arcesilaus by others, and by others again of Critobulus, an esteemed citizen of the place. But it so fell out that Ladice was the only woman with whom Amasis could not have intercourse; and this continuing, Amasis said to this Ladice, "Woman, you have cast a spell on me, and most assuredly you shall come to the most terrible end of all women." So, the king's anger not abating for all her denial, Ladice vowed in her heart to  p497 Aphrodite that she would send the goddess a statue to Cyrene if Amasis had intercourse with her that night; for that would remedy the evil; and thereafter all went well, and Amasis loved his wife much. Ladice paid her vow to the goddess; she had an image made and sent it to Cyrene, where it stood safe till my time, facing outwards from the city. Cambyses, when he had conquered Egypt and learnt who Ladice was, sent her away to Cyrene unharmed.

182 Moreover Amasis dedicated offerings in Hellas. He gave to Cyrene a gilt image of Athene and a painted picture of himself, to Athene of Lindus two stone images and a marvellous linen breast-plate, and to Here in Samos two wooden statues of himself, which stood yet in my time behind the doors in the great shrine. The offerings in Samos were dedicated by reason of the friendship between Amasis and Polycrates35 son of Aeaces; what he gave to Lindus was for no friendship with any man, but because it is said that the temple of Athena in Lindus was founded by the daughters of Danaus, when they landed there in their flight from the sons of Egyptus. Such were Amasis' offerings. Moreover he was the first conqueror of Cyprus, which he made tributary to himself.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Rameses II, called by the Greeks Sesostris; said to have ruled in the fourteenth century B.C.

2 Ships of war.

3 There seems to be no reason for connecting Colchian linen with Sardinia (as Σαρδωνικόν would imply). The Colchian word may have had a similar sound.

4 Two such figures have been discovered in the pass of Karabel, near the old road from Ephesus to Smyrna. They are not, however, Egyptian in appearance.

5 Manetho's list shows no such name. It is probably not a name but a title, Pharaoh.

6 Il. VI.289‑92.

7 Od. IV.227‑30.

8 Od. IV.351, 2.

9 Jackals appear on Egyptian monuments, symbolising Anubis, the guide of the dead.

10 Isis and Osiris.

11 The "Great Pyramid."

12 That is, the stones which were to fill up the angles of the steps, and make the side of the pyramid a smooth inclined plane. The pyramids built by Cheops, Chephren, and Mycerinus respectively are the pyramids of Gizeh, near Cairo.

13 Or, "in."

14 This is the form which Hdt. gives to the story of the rule of the "shepherds" (Hyksos) in Lower Egypt, perhaps from 2100 to 1600 B.C.

15 The cow‑worship is no doubt the cult of Isis, honoured at Sais under the name Nit.

16 In Manetho's list three Ethiopian kings form the twenty-fifth dynasty, Sabacon, Sebichos, and Taracos (the Tirhaka of the Old Testament)

17 Sennacherib's attack on Hezekiah of Judaea was made on his march to Egypt. — II Kings, xviii.

18 This is Hdt.'s version of the Jewish story of the pestilence which destroyed the Assyrian army before Jerusalem. Mice are a Greek symbol of pestilence; it is Apollo Smintheus (the mouse god) who sends and then stays the plague in Homer, Il. I. It has long been known that rats are carriers of the plague.

19 Hecataeus died soon after the Persian war.

20 Typhon is the Egyptian Set, the god of destruction.

21 The Egyptian Khem.

22 This "labyrinth" was a horseshoe-shaped group of buildings, supposed to have been near the pyramid of Hawâra (Sayce).

23 I take ἤδη as = ἦ δή, with λόγου μέζω.

24 Probably capstans for hauling the ships ashore.

25 This canal ran from near Tel Basta (Bubastis) apparently to Suez. Inscriptions regarding Darius' construction of it have been found in the neighbourhood.

26 Magdolus appears to be the Migdol of O. T.

27 Gaza.

28 Apries is the Hophra of O. T.: he reigned from 589 to 570 B.C., apparently. But the statement that he take down Tyre and Sidon is inconsistent with Jewish ( Jerem. xxvii, Ezek. xvii).

29 That is, each twelve-acre plot was cultivated by a new occupier every year.

30 A festival celebrated by Athenian women in autumn.

Thayer's Note: Full details in the article Thesmophoria in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

31 Apparently, Nit; also identified with Demeter (132, note).

32 Visitors to Karnak will remember the double row of sphinxes leading to the temple.

33 The island opposite Assuan; the Assuan quarries have always been famous.

34 Alum, apparently.

35 Polycrates' rule began probably in 532 B.C. For the friendship between him and Amasis, see III.39.


Thayer's Notes:

a ἐπαείρας ἀπεματάισε="lifting (his leg), he farted".

b Macaulay's translation is unbowdlerized: "into which formerly the Egyptians used to vomit and make water, and in which they washed their feet".

c The width is missing in the text that has come down to us; see the critical note in the Greek.

Until I put the Greek text up, here is that critical note, which supplies a possible width (twelve cubits), reading:

This lacuna is in one MS. filled by the words τὸ δὲ εὖρος δυώδεκα πήχεων.


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