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IX.90‑113

This webpage reproduces a section of
Herodotus
published in Vol. IV
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,
1925

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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(Vol. IV) Herodotus

 p293  Book IX: chapters 114‑122

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. IV, with valuable notes),
and to the running commentary by How and Wells.
Links marked L are to in‑depth articles at Livius.Org.

114 Rawlinson p476 H & W The Greeks that had set out from Mycale for the Hellespont first lay to off Lectum1 under stress of weather, and thence came to Abydos, where they found the bridges broken which they thought would be still holding fast, and indeed these were the chief cause of their coming to the Hellespont. The Peloponnesians then who were with Leutychides thus resolved that they would sail away to Hellas, but the Athenians, with Xanthippus their general, that they would remain there and attack the Chersonesus. So the rest sailed away, but the Athenians crossed over to the Chersonesus and laid siege to Sestus.

115 Now when the Persians heard that the Greeks were at the Hellespont, they had come in from the neighbouring towns and assembled at this same Sestus, seeing that it was the strongest walled place in that region; among them was come from Cardia a Persian named Oeobazus, and he had carried thither the tackle of the bridges. Sestus was held  p295 by the Aeolians of the country, but with him were Persians and a great multitude of their allies withal.

116 H & W This province was ruled by Xerxes' viceroy Artaÿctes, a cunning man and a wicked; witness the deceit that he practised on the king in his march to Athens, how he stole away from Elaeus the treasure of Protesilaus2 son of Iphiclus. This was the way of it: there is at Elaeus in the Chersonesus the tomb of Protesilaus, and a precinct about it, where was much treasure, with vessels of gold and silver, bronze, raiment, and other dedicated offerings; all of which Artaÿctes carried off, by the king's gift. "Sire," he said deceitfully to Xerxes, "there is here the house of a certain Greek, who met a just death for invading your territory with an army; give me this man's house, whereby all may be taught not to invade your territory." It was to be thought that this plea would easily persuade Xerxes to give him a man's house, having no suspicion of Artaÿctes' meaning; whose reason for saying that Protesilaus had invaded the king's territory was, that the Persians believe all Asia to belong to themselves and whosoever is their king. So when the treasure was given him, he carried it away from Elaeus to Sestus, and planted and farmed the precinct; and he would come from Elaeus and have intercourse with women in the shrine. Now, when the Athenians laid siege to him, he had made no preparation for it, nor thought that the Greeks would come, and he had no way of escape from their attack.

117 Rawlinson p478 But the siege continuing into the late autumn, the Athenians grew weary of their absence  p297 from home and their ill success at taking the fortress, and entreated their generals to lead them away again; but the generals refused to do that, till they would take the place or be recalled by the Athenian state. Thereat the men endured their plight patiently.

118 But they that were within the walls were by now brought to the last extremity, insomuch that they boiled the thongs of their beds for food; but at the last even these failed them, and Artaÿctes and Oeobazus and all the Persians made their way down from the back part of the fortress, where their enemies were scarcest, and fled away at nightfall. When morning came, the people of the Chersonesus signified from their towers to the Athenians what had happened, and opened their gates; and the greater part of the Athenians going in pursuit, the rest stayed to hold the town.

119 Oeobazus made to escape into Thrace; but the Apsinthians of that country caught and sacrificed him after their fashion to Plistorus the god of their land; as for his companions, they slew them in another manner. Artaÿctes and his company had begun their flight later, and were overtaken a little way beyond the Goat's Rivers,3 where after they had defended themselves a long time some of them were slain and the rest taken alive. The Greeks bound and carried them to Sestus, and Artaÿctes and his son likewise with them in bonds.

120 It is told by the people of the Chersonesus that a marvellous thing befell one of them that  p299 guarded Artaÿctes: he was frying dried fishes, and these as they lay over the fire began to leap and writhe as though they were fishes newly caught. The rest gathered round, amazed at the sight; but when Artaÿctes saw the strange thing, he called him that was frying the fishes and said to him: "Sir Athenian, be not afraid of this portent; it is not to you that it is sent; it is to me that Protesilaus of Elaeus would signify that though he be dead and dry he has power given him by heaven to take vengeance on me that wronged him. Now therefore I offer a ransom, to wit, payment of a hundred talents to the god for the treasure that I took from his temple; and I will pay to the Athenians two hundred talents for myself and my son, if they spare us." But Xanthippus the general was unmoved by this promise; for the people of Elaeus entreated that Artaÿctes should be put to death in justice to Protesilaus, and the general himself likewise was so minded. So they carried Artaÿctes away to the headland where Xerxes had bridged the strait (or, by another story, to the hill above the town of Madytus), and there nailed him to boards and hanged him aloft; and as for his son, they stoned him to death before his father's eyes.

121 Rawlinson p480 This done, they sailed away to Hellas, carrying with them the tackle of the bridges to be dedicated in their temples, and the rest of the stuff withal. And in that year nothing further was done.

122 This Artaÿctes who was crucified was grandson to that Artembares4 who instructed the Persians in a design which they took from him and laid  p301 before Cyrus; this was its purport: "Seeing that Zeus grants lordship to the Persian people, and to you, Cyrus, among them, by bringing Astyages low, let us now remove out of the little and rugged land that we possess and take to ourselves one that is better. There be many such on our borders, and many further distant; if we take one of these we shall have more reasons for renown. It is but reasonable that a ruling people should act thus; for when shall we have a fairer occasion than now, when we are lords of so many men and of all Asia?" Cyrus heard them, and found nought to marvel at in their design; "Do so," said he; "But if you do, make ready to be no longer rulers, but subjects. Soft lands breed soft men; wondrous fruits of the earth and valiant warriors grow not from the same soil." Thereat the Persians saw that Cyrus reasoned better than they, and they departed from before him, choosing rather to be rulers on a barren mountain side than slaves dwelling in tilled valleys.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 At the western end of the bay of Adramyttium.

2 The first Greek to fall in the Trojan war, νηὸς ἀποθρώσκων (Hom. Il. II.701).

3 A roadstead opposite Lampsacus; the rivers were probably two small streams that flow into the sea there (How and Wells).

4 There is an Artembares in I.114; but he is a Mede, and so can hardly be meant here.


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