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Bill Thayer

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

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. II) Herodotus

 p117  Book III: chapters 89‑117

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. II, with valuable notes),
and to the running commentary by How and Wells.
Cartouches are links to in‑depth articles at Livius.Org or LacusCurtius.

[link to original Greek text] 89 Rawlinson p483 H & W Having so done in Persia, he divided his dominions into twenty governments, called by the Persians satrapies;​1 and doing so and appointing governors, he ordained that each several nation should pay him tribute; to this end he united each nation with its closest neighbours, and, beyond these nearest lands, assigned those that were farther off some to one and some to another nation. I will now show how he divided his governments and the tributes which were paid him yearly. Those that paid in silver were appointed to render the weight of a Babylonian talent; those that paid in gold, an Euboïc talent; the Babylonian talent being equal to seventy-eight Euboïc minae. In the reigns of Cyrus and Cambyses after him there was no fixed tribute, but payment was made in gifts. It is by reason of this fixing of tribute, and other like ordinances, that the Persians called Darius the huckster, Cambyses the master, and Cyrus the father; for Darius made petty profit out of everything, Cambyses was harsh and arrogant, Cyrus was merci­ful and ever wrought for their well-being.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a relief of the Persian king Darius receiving Pharnaces, as further captioned in the text of this webpage.]

A satrap receiving an embassy. This Greek relief was part of the Nereid Monument in Xanthus.

British Museum, London.
Photo © Livius.Org | Marco Prins, by kind permission.

 p119  [link to original Greek text] 90 Rawlinson p484 H & W The Ionians, Magnesians of Asia, Aeolians, Carians, Lycians, Milyans, and Pamphylians, on whom Darius laid one joint tribute, paid a revenue of three hundred talents of silver. This was established as his first province. The Mysians, Lydians, Lasonians, Cabalians, and Hytennians paid five hundred talents; this was the second province. The third comprised the Hellespontians on the right of the entrance of the straits, the Phrygians, Thracians of Asia, Paphlagonians, Mariandynians, and Syrians; these paid three hundred and sixty talents of tribute. The fourth province was Cilicia. This rendered three hundred and sixty white horses, one for each day in the year, and five hundred talents of silver. An hundred and forty of these were expended on the horsemen who were the guard of Cilicia; the three hundred and sixty that remained were paid to Darius.

[link to original Greek text] 91 The fifth province was the country (except the part belonging to the Arabians, which paid no tribute) between Posideion, a city founded on the Cilician and Syrian border by Amphilochus son of Amphiaraus, and Egypt; this paid three hundred and fifty talents; in this province was all Phoenice, and the part of Syria called Palestine, and Cyprus. The sixth province was Egypt and the neighbouring parts of Libya, and Cyrene and Barca, all which were included in the province of Egypt. Hence came seven hundred talents, besides the revenue of silver from the fish of the lake Moeris; besides that silver and the measure of grain that was given also, seven hundred talents were paid; for an  p121 hundred and twenty thousand bushels of grain were also assigned to the Persians quartered at the White Citadel of Memphis and their allies. The Sattagydae, Gandarii, Dadicae, and Aparytae paid together an hundred and seventy talents; this was the seventh province; the eighth was Susa and the rest of the Cissian country, paying three hundred talents.

[link to original Greek text] 92 Rawlinson p486 H & W Babylon and the rest of Assyria rendered to Darius a thousand talents of silver and five hundred boys to be eunuchs; this was the ninth province; Agbatana and the rest of Media, with the Paricanians and Orthocorybantians, paid four hundred and fifty talents, and was the tenth province. The eleventh comprised the Caspii, Pausicae, Pantimathi, and Daritae, paying jointly two hundred;

[link to original Greek text] 93 The twelfth, the Bactrians as far as the land of the Aegli; these paid three hundred and sixty. The thirteenth, the Pactyic country and Armenia and the lands adjoining thereto as far as the Euxine sea; these paid four hundred. The fourteenth province was made up of the Sagartii, Sarangeis, Thamanaei, Utii, Myci, and the dwellers on those islands of the southern sea wherein the king plants the people said to be "removed";​2 these together paid a tribute of six hundred talents. The Sacae and Caspii were the fifteenth, paying two hundred and fifty. The Parthians, Chorasmians,  p123 Sogdi, and Arii were the sixteenth, paying three hundred.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a relief of subject nations bringing tribute to the Persian Empire, as further captioned in the text of this webpage.]

Armenians bringing gifts to Darius.

Western stairs of the Apadana, Persepolis; in situ.
Photo © Livius.Org | Jona Lendering, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 94 H & W The Paricanii and Ethiopians of Asia, being the seventeenth, paid four hundred; the Matieni, Saspiri, and Alarodii were the eighteenth, and two hundred talents were the appointed tribute. The Moschi, Tibareni, Macrones, Mossynoeci, and Mares, the nineteenth province, were ordered to pay three hundred. The Indians made up the twentieth province. These are more in number than any nation known to me, and they paid a greater tribute than any other province, namely three hundred and sixty talents of gold dust.

[link to original Greek text] 95 Rawlinson p488 Now if these Babylonian talents be reckoned in Euboïc money, the sum is seen to be nine thousand eight hundred and eighty Euboïc talents; and the gold coin being counted as thirteen times the value of the silver, the gold-dust is found to be of the worth of four thousand six hundred and eighty Euboïc talents. Therefore it is seen by adding all together that Darius collected a yearly tribute of fourteen thousand five hundred and sixty talents; I take no account of figures less than ten.

[link to original Greek text] 96 H & W This was Darius' revenue from Asia and a few parts of Libya. But as time went on he drew tribute also from the islands and the dwellers in Europe, as far as Thessaly. The tribute is stored by  p125 the king in this fashion: he melts it down and pours it into earthen vessels; when the vessel is full he breaks the earthenware away, and when he needs money cuts off as much as will serve his purpose.

[link to original Greek text] 97 These were the several governments and appointments of tribute. The Persian country is the only one which I have not recorded as tributary; for the Persians dwell free from all taxes. As for those on whom no tribute was laid, but who rendered gifts instead, they were, firstly, the Ethiopians nearest to Egypt, whom Cambyses subdued in his march towards the long-lived Ethiopians; and also those who dwell about the holy Nysa,​3 where Dionysus is the god of their festivals. The seed of these Ethiopians and their neighbours is like the seed of the Indian Callantiae; they live under­ground. These together brought every third year and still bring a gift of two choenixes​4 of pure gold, two hundred blocks of ebony, five Ethiopian boys, and twenty great elephants' tusks. Gifts were also required of the Colchians and their neighbours as far as the Caucasian mountains (which is as far as the Persian rule reaches, the country north of the Caucasus paying no regard to the Persians); these were rendered every five years and are still so rendered, namely, an hundred boys and as many maidens.  p127 The Arabians rendered a thousand talents' weight of frankincense yearly. Such were the gifts of these peoples to the king, besides the tribute.

[link to original Greek text] 98 Rawlinson p491 All this abundance of gold, whence the Indians send the aforesaid gold-dust to the king, they win in such manner as I shall show. All to the east of the Indian country is sand; among all men of whom hearsay gives us any clear knowledge the Indians dwell farthest to the east and the sunrise of all the nations of Asia; for on the eastern side of India all is desert by reason of the sand. There are many Indian nations, none speaking the same language; some of them are nomads, some not; some dwell in the river marshes and live on raw fish, which they catch from reed boats. Each boat is made of one single length between the joints of a reed.​5 These Indians wear clothes of rushes; they mow and cut these from the river, then plait them crosswise like a mat, and put it on like a breastplate.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is an Indian bearing tribute to the Persian king, as further captioned in the text of this webpage.]

An Indian bringing phials of gold dust to Darius.

Western stairs of the Apadana, Persepolis; in situ.
Photo © Livius.Org | Jona Lendering, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 99 Rawlinson p492 Other Indians, to the east of these, are nomads and eat raw flesh; they are called Padaei. It is said to be their custom that when any of their countryfolk male or female are sick, a man's closest friends kill him, saying that they lose his flesh by the wasting of the disease; though he denies that he is sick, yet they will not believe him, but kill and eat him. When a woman is sick she is put to death like the men by the women who most consort with her. As for one that has come to old age, they sacrifice him and feast on his flesh;  p129 but there are not many who come thereto, for all who fall sick are killed ere that.

[link to original Greek text] 100 There are other Indians, again, who kill no living creature, nor sow, nor are wont to have houses; they eat grass, and they have a grain growing naturally from the earth in its calyx, about the size of a millet-seed, which they gather with the calyx and roast and eat. When any one of them falls sick he goes into the desert and lies there, none regarding whether he be sick or die.

[link to original Greek text] 101 These Indians of whom I speak have intercourse openly like cattle; they are all black-skinned, like the Ethiopians. Their genital seed too is not white like other men's, but like the Ethiopians' black. These Indians dwell far away from the Persians southwards, and were no subjects of King Darius.

[link to original Greek text] 102 Other Indians dwell near the town of Caspatyrus and the Pactyic country,​6 northward of the rest of India; these live like the Bactrians; they are of all Indians the most warlike, and it is they who are charged with the getting of the gold; for in these parts all is desert by reason of the sand. There are found in this sandy desert ants​7 not so big as dogs but bigger than foxes; the Persian king has some of these, which have been caught  p131 there. These ants make their dwellings under­ground, digging out the sand in the same manner as do the ants in Greece, to which they are very like in shape, and the sand which they carry forth from the holes is full of gold. It is for this sand that the Indians set forth into the desert. They harness three camels apiece, a male led camel on either side to help in draught, and a female in the middle: the man himself rides on the female, careful that when harnessed she has been taken away from as young an offspring as may be. Their camels are as swift as horses, and much better able to bear burdens besides.

[link to original Greek text] 103 Rawlinson p495 H & W I do not describe the camel's appearance to Greeks, for they know it; but I will show them a thing which they do not know concerning it: the hindlegs of the camel have four thighbones and four knee-joints; its privy parts are turned towards the tail between the hindlegs.

[link to original Greek text] 104 Thus and with teams so harnessed the Indians ride after the gold, using all diligence that they shall be about the business of taking it when the heat is greatest; for the ants are then out of sight under­ground. Now in these parts the sun is hottest in the morning, not at midday as elsewhere, but from sunrise to the hour of market-closing. Through these hours it is hotter by much than in Hellas at noon, so that men are said to sprinkle themselves with water at this time. At midday the sun's heat is well nigh the same in India and elsewhere. As it grows to afternoon, the sun of  p133 India has the power of the morning sun in other lands; with its sinking the day becomes ever cooler, till at sunset it is exceeding cold.

[link to original Greek text] 105 Rawlinson p496 So when the Indians come to the place with their sacks, they fill these with the sand and ride away back with all speed; for, as the Persians say, the ants forthwith scent them out and give chase, being, it would seem, so much swifter than all other creatures that if the Indians made not haste on their way while the ants are mustering, not one of them would escape. So they loose the male trace-camels that they lead, one at a time (these being slower than the females); the mares never tire, for they remember the young that they have left. Such is the tale. Most of the gold (say the Persians) is got in this way by the Indians; there is some besides that they dig from mines in their country, but it is less abundant.

[link to original Greek text] 106 It would seem that the fairest blessings have been granted to the most distant nations of the world, whereas in Hellas the seasons have by much the kindliest temperature. As I have lately said, India lies at the world's most distant eastern limit; and in India all living creatures four-footed and flying are by much bigger than those of other lands, except the horses, which are smaller than the Median horses called Nesaean;α moreover the gold there, whether dug from the earth or brought down by rivers or got as I have shown, is very abundant. There too grows on wild trees wool more beauti­ful and excellent than the wool  p135 of sheep; these trees supply the Indians with clothing.

[link to original Greek text] 107 Again, Arabia is the most distant to the south of all inhabited countries: and this is the only country which yields frankincense and myrrh and casia and cinnamon and gum‑mastich. All these but myrrh are difficult for the Arabians to get. They gather frankincense by burning that storax​8 which Phoenicians carry to Hellas; this they burn and so get the frankincense; for the spice-bearing trees are guarded by small winged snakes of varied colour, many round each tree; these are the snakes that attack Egypt. Nothing save the smoke of storax will drive them away from the trees.

[link to original Greek text] 108 Rawlinson p498 The Arabians also say that the whole country would be full of these snakes were it not with them as I have heard that it is with vipers. It would seem that the wisdom of divine Providence (as is but reasonable) has made all creatures prolific that are cowardly and fit to eat, that they be not minished from off the earth by devouring, whereas but few young are born to creatures cruel and baneful. The hare is so prolific, for that it is the prey of every beast and bird and man; alone of all creatures it conceives in pregnancy;​a some of the unborn young are hairy, some still naked; while some are still forming in the womb others are already being chased and killed. But whereas this is so with  p137 the hare, the lioness, a very strong and bold beast, bears offspring but once in her life, and then but one cub; for the uterus comes out with the cub in the act of birth. This is the reason of it: — when the cub first begins to stir in the mother, its claws, much sharper than those of any other creature, tear the uterus, and as it grows, much more does it scratch and tear, so that when the hour of birth is near seldom is any of the uterus left whole.

[link to original Greek text] 109 H & W It is so too with vipers and the winged serpents of Arabia: were they born in the natural manner of serpents no life were possible for men; but as it is, when they pair, and the male is in the very act of generation, the female seizes him by the neck, nor lets go her grip till she have devoured him. Thus the male dies; but the female is punished for his death; the young avenge their father, and eat their mother while they are yet within her; nor are they dropped from her till they have devoured her womb. Other snakes, that do no harm to men, lay eggs and hatch out a vast number of young. The Arabian winged serpents do indeed seem to be many; but it is because (whereas there are vipers in every land) these are all in Arabia and are nowhere else found.

[link to original Greek text] 110 The Arabians get their frankincense as I have shown; for the winning of casia, when they week it they bind oxhides and other skins over all their bodies and faces, leaving only the eyes. Casia grows in a shallow lake; round this and in it are  p139 encamped certain winged creatures, very like bats, that squeak shrilly and make a stout resistance; these must be kept from the men's eyes if the casia is to be plucked.

[link to original Greek text] 111 Rawlinson p500 As for cinnamon, they gather it in a fashion even stranger. Where it grows and what kind of land nurtures it they cannot say, save that it is reported, reasonably enough, to grow in the places where Dionysus was reared. There are great birds, it is said, that take these sticks which the Phoenicians have taught us to call cinnamon, and carry them off to nests built of mud on the mountain crags, where no man can approach. The Arabian device for defeating the birds is to cut into very large pieces dead oxen and asses and other beasts of burden, then to set these near the eyries, withdrawing themselves far off. The birds then fly down (it is said) and carry the morsels of the beasts up to their nests; which not being able to bear the weight break and fall down the mountain side; and then the Arabians come up and gather what they seek. Thus is cinnamon said to be gathered, and so to come to Arabia from other lands.

[link to original Greek text] 112 But gum‑mastich, which Greeks call ledanon and Arabians ladanon, is yet more strangely produced. Its scent is most sweet, yet nothing smells more evilly than that which produces it; for it is found in the beards of he-goats, forming in them like tree-gum. This is used in the making of many perfumes; there is nothing that the Arabians so often burn for fragrance.

 p141  [link to original Greek text] 113 Rawlinson p502 I have said enough of the spices of Arabia; airs wondrous sweet blow from that land. They have moreover two marvellous kinds of sheep, nowhere else found. One of these has tails no less than three cubits long. Were the sheep to trail these after them, they would suffer hurt by the rubbing of the tails on the ground; but as it is every shepherd there knows enough of carpentry to make little carts which they fix under the tails, binding the tail of each several sheep on its own cart. The other kind of sheep has tails a full cubit broad.

[link to original Greek text] 114 Where south inclines westwards, the part of the world stretching farthest towards the sunset is Ethiopia; here is great plenty of gold, and abundance of elephants, and all woodland trees, and ebony; and the people are tallest and fairest and longest-lived of all men.

[link to original Greek text] 115 These then are the most distant parts of the world in Asia and Libya. But concerning the farthest western parts of Europe I cannot speak with exactness; for I do not believe that there is a river called by foreigners Eridanus issuing into the northern sea, whence our amber is said to come, nor have I any knowledge of Tin‑islands, whence our tin is brought. The very name of the Eridanus bewrays itself as not a foreign but a Greek name, invented by some poet;​b nor for all my diligence have I been able to learn from one who has seen it that there is a sea beyond Europe. This only we  p143 know, that our tin and amber come from the most distant parts.

[link to original Greek text] 116 Rawlinson p505 H & W This is also plain, that to the north of Europe there is by far more gold than elsewhere. In this matter again I cannot with certainty say how the gold is got; some will have it that one‑eyed men called Arimaspians steal it from griffins. But this too I hold incredible, that there can be men in all else like other men, yet having but one eye. Suffice it that it is but reasonable that the most distant parts of the world, as they enclose and wholly surround all other lands, should have those things which we deem best and rarest.

[link to original Greek text] 117 There is in Asia a plain surrounded by mountains, through which mountains there are five clefts.​9 This plain belonged formerly to the Chorasmians; it adjoins the land of the Chorasmians themselves, the Hyrcanians, Parthians, Sarangeis, and Thamanaei; but since the Persians have held sway it has been the king's own land. Now from the encircling mountains flows a great river called Aces. Its stream divides into five channels, and watered formerly the lands of the peoples aforesaid by passing to them severally through the five clefts; but since the beginning of the Persian rule the king has blocked the mountain clefts, and closed each passage with a gate; the water thus barred from outlet, the plain within the mountains becomes a lake, seeing that the river pours into it and finds no way out. Those therefore who formerly used  p145 the water can use it no longer, and are in very evil case; for whereas in winter they have the rain from heaven like other men, in summer they are in need of the water for their sown millet and sesame. So whenever no water is given to them, they come into Persia with their women, and cry and howl before the door of the king's palace, till the king commands that the river-gate which leads thither should be opened for those whose need is greatest; then, when this land has drunk its fill of water, that gate is shut, and the king bids open another for those of the rest who most require it. I have heard and know that he exacts great sums, over and above the tribute, for the opening of the gates.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 On the following list see the introduction to this book.

2 The regular term for the peoples or individuals who were transplanted from the western into the eastern parts of the Persian empire; the ἀνα‑ implying removal from the sea to the highlands.

3 Probably the mountain called Barkal in Upper Nubia; this is called "sacred" in hieroglyphic inscriptions.

Thayer's Note: Nysa was a common placename; any one of a dozen places may be meant. Some of them are out of the question here, of course, but a good introduction can be got at Livius' page Nysa.

4 The choenix was a measure of about the capacity of a quart.

Thayer's Note: the brief article Choenix in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (and the further works cited in it) is enough to bring out the difficulties involved in determining just what its capacity really was. In De Sanctis' famous quip, ancient metrology is not a science, it's a nightmare.

5 Not the bamboo, apparently, but the "kana," which sometimes grows to a height of 50 feet.

6 N. E. Afghanistan. Caspatyrus (or Caspapyrus) is said to be probably Cabul.

7 It is suggested that the "ants" may have been really marmots. But even this does not seem to make the story much more probable.

Lendering's Note: In the 1990's this amazing story received confirmation. Marmots it is.

8 A kind of gum, produ­cing an acrid smoke when burnt, and therefore used as a disinfectant.

9 All this description appears to be purely imaginative. But "the idea of the chapter" (say Messrs. How and Wells) "is quite correct; the control of irrigation is in the East one of the prerogatives of government, and great sums are charged for the use of water."

Thayer's Notes:

a For superfetation in hares (in addition to Rawlinson's note, of very mild interest) see my note on Varro, R. R. III.12.4, and from there especially Mair's note on Oppian.

b In what way the name might betray (or to use Godley's obsolescent verb, bewray) a Greek derivation, I don't know: but there was a small stream by that name flowing thru ancient Athens (Plato Critias 112A, Strabo IX.1.19, Paus. I.19.5); Herodotus' idea might be that some poet applied the name of this Greek watercourse to the other.

Herodotus takes the Eridanus here to be a northern European river; the name, however, was applied in Antiquity to various rivers, including especially the Po and the Rhône, and already Strabo suggested elsewhere (V.1.9) that, except for the Attic stream, the Eridanus might just be altogether mythical. Most of the candidates are discussed in Allen's Star Names, s.v. Eridanus.

Lendering's Note:

α Nesaea (or Nisaia), chiefly famous for its horses.

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