Copyright
Herodotus.

Voyages and travels; ancient and modern online

. (page 7 of 35)
Online LibraryHerodotusVoyages and travels; ancient and modern → online text (page 7 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


hands had dropped off from lapse of time, and they were to
be seen still lying at their feet even down to my time. The
cow is covered up with a crimson robe, except only the head
and the neck, which are seen, overlaid with gold very thickly ;
and between the horns there is the disc of the sun figured in
gold. The cow is not standing up but kneeling, and in size
it is equal to a large living cow. Every year it is carried
forth from the chamber, at those times, I say, the Egyptians
beat themselves for that god whom I will not name upon
occasion of such a matter; at these times, I say, they also
carry forth the cow to the light of day, for they say that she
asked of her father Mykerinos, when she was dying, that
she might look upon the sun once in the year.

After the misfortune of his daughter it happened, they
said, secondly to this king as follows: An oracle came to
him from the city of Buto, saying that he was destined to
live but six years more, in the seventh year to end his life :
and he being indignant at it sent to the Oracle a reproach
against the god, making complaint in reply that whereas his
father and uncle, who had shut up the temples and had not
only not remembered the gods, but also had been destroyers of
men, had lived for a long time, he himself, who practised
piety, was destined to end his life so soon: and from the
Oracle there came a second message, which said that it was
for this very cause that he was bringing his life to a swift
close; for he had not done that which it was appointed for
him to do, since it was destined that Egypt should suffer evils
for a hundred and fifty years, and the two kings who had
arisen before him had perceived this, but he had not. Myk-
erinos having heard this, and considering that this sentence
had passed upon him beyond recall, procured many lamps,



68 HERODOTUS

and whenever night came on he lighted these and began to
drink and take his pleasure, ceasing neither by day nor by
night ; and he went about to the fen-country and to the
woods and wherever he heard there were the most suitable
places of enjoyment. This he devised (having a mind to
prove that the Oracle spoke falsely) in order that he might
have twelve years of life instead of six, the nights being
turned into days.

This king also left behind him a pyramid, much smaller
than that of his father, of a square shape and measuring on
each side three hundred feet lacking twenty, built moreover
of Ethiopian stone up to half the height. This pyramid
some of the Hellenes say was built by the courtesan Rhod-
opis, not therein speaking rightly : and besides this it is
evident to me that they who speak thus do not even know
who Rhodopis was, for otherwise they would not have
attributed to her the building of a pyramid like this, on
which have been spent (so to speak) innumerable thousands
of talents : moreover they do not know that -Rhodopis flour-
ished in the reign of Amasis, and not in this king's reign;
for Rhodopis lived very many years later than the kings
who left behind them these pyramids. By descent she was
of Thrace, and she was a slave of Iadmon the son of
Hephaistopolis a Samian, and a fellow-slave of Esop the
maker of fables; for he too was once the slave of Iadmon, as
was proved especially by this fact, namely that when the
people of Delphi repeatedly made proclamation in accord-
ance with an oracle, to find some one who would take up the
blood-money for the death of Esop, no one else appeared,
but at length the grandson of Iadmon, called Iadmon also,
took it up ; and thus it is shown that Esop too was the slave
of Iadmon. As for Rhodopis, she came to Egypt brought
by Xanthes the Samian, and having come thither to exercise
her calling she was redeemed from slavery for a great sum
by a man of Mytilene, Charaxos son of Scamandronymos
and brother of Sappho the lyric poet. Thus was Rhodopis
set free, and she remained in Egypt and by her beauty won
so much liking that she made great gain of money for one
like Rhodopis, though not enough to suffice for the cost of
such a pyramid as this. In truth there is no need to ascribe



EGYPT 69

to her very great riches, considering that the tithe of her
wealth may still be seen even to this time by any one who
desires it: for Rhodopis wished to leave behind her a me-
morial of herself in Hellas, namely to cause a thing to be
made such as happens not to have been thought of or dedi-
cated in a temple by any besides, and to dedicate this at
Delphi as a memorial of herself. Accordingly with the tithe
of her wealth she caused to be made spits of iron of size
large enough to pierce a whole ox, and many in number,
going as far therein as her tithe allowed her, and she sent
them to Delphi : these are even at the present time lying
there, heaped all together behind the altar which the Chians
dedicated, and just opposite to the cell of the temple. Now
at Naucratis, as it happens, the courtesans are rather apt to
win credit; for this woman first, about whom the story to
which I refer is told, became so famous that all the Hellenes
without exception came to know the name of Rhodopis, and
then after her one whose name was Archidiche became a
subject of song all over Hellas, though she was less talked
of than the other. As for Charaxos, when after redeeming
Rhodopis he returned back to Mytilene, Sappho in an ode
violently abused him. Of Rhodopis then I shall say no more.
After Mykerinos the priests said Asychis became king of
Egypt, and he made for Hephaistos the temple gateway
which is towards the sunrising, by far the most beautiful
and the largest of the gateways; for while they all have
figures carved upon them and innumerable ornaments of
building besides, this has them very much more than the rest.
In this king's reign they told me that, as the circulation of
money was very slow, a law was made for the Egyptians
that a man might have that money lent to him which he
needed, by offering as security the dead body of his father;
and there was added moreover to this law another, namely
that he who lent the money should have a claim also to the
whole of the sepulchral chamber belonging to him who re-
ceived it, and that the man who offered that security should
be subject to this penalty, if he refused to pay back the
debt, namely that neither the man himself should be allowed
to have burial, when he died, either in that family burial-
place or in any other, nor should he be allowed to bury any



70 HERODOTUS

of his kinsmen whom he lost by death. This king desiring
to surpass the kings of Egypt who had arisen before him left
as a memorial of himself a pyramid which he made of bricks,
and on it there is an inscription carved in stone and saying
thus: "Despise not me in comparison with the pyramids of
stone, seeing that I excel them as much as Zeus excels the
other gods; for with a pole they struck into the lake, and
whatever of the mud attached itself to the pole, this they
gathered up and made bricks, and in such manner they
finished me."

Such were the deeds which this king performed: and after
him reigned a blind man of the city of Anysis, whose name
was Anysis. In his reign the Ethiopians and Sabacos the
king of the Ethiopians marched upon Egypt with a great
host of men; so this blind man departed, flying to the fen-
country, and the Ethiopian was king over Egypt for fifty
years, during which he performed deeds as follows:
whenever any man of the Egyptians committed any trans-
gression, he would never put him to death, but he gave sen-
tence upon each man according to the greatness of the
wrong-doing, appointing them to work at throwing up an
embankment before that city from whence each man came
of those who committed wrong. Thus the cities were made
higher still than before ; for they were embanked first by
those who dug the channels in the reign of Sesostris, and then
secondly in the reign of the Ethiopian, and thus they were
made very high : and while other cities in Egypt also stood
high, I think in the town at Bubastis especially the earth was
piled up. In this city there is a temple very well worthy of
mention, for though there are other temples which are larger
and built with more cost, none more than this is a pleasure
to the eyes. Now Bubastis in the Hellenic tongue is
Artemis, and her temple is ordered thus : Except the en-
trance it is completely surrounded by water; for channels
come in from the Nile, not joining one another, but each
extending as far as the entrance of the temple, one flowing
round on the one side and the other on the other side, each
a hundred feet broad and shaded over with trees; and the
gateway has a height of ten fathoms, and it is adorned with
figures six cubits high, very noteworthy. This temple is in



EGYPT 71

the middle of the city and is looked down upon from all
sides as one goes round, for since the city has been banked
up to a height, while the temple has not been moved from
the place where it was at the first built, it is possible to look
down into it: and round it runs a stone wall with figures
carved upon it, while within it there is a grove of very large
trees planted round a large temple-house, within which is
the image of the goddess: and the breadth and length of the
temple is a furlong every way. Opposite the entrance there
is a road paved with stone for about three furlongs, which
leads through the market-place towards the East, with a
breadth of about four hundred feet; and on this side and on
that grow trees of height reaching to heaven : and the road
leads to the temple of Hermes. This temple then is thus
ordered.

The final deliverance from the Ethiopian came about (they
said) as follows: he fled away because he had seen in his
sleep a vision, in which it seemed to him that a man came
and stood by him and counselled him to gather together all
the priests in Egypt and cut them asunder in the midst.
Having seen this dream, he said that it seemed to him that
the gods were foreshowing him this to furnish an occasion
against him, in order that he might do an impious deed with
respect to religion, and so receive some evil either from the
gods or from men : he would not however do so, but in truth
(he said) the time had expired, during which it had been
prophesied to him that he should rule Egypt before he de-
parted thence. For when he was in Ethiopia the Oracles
which the Ethiopians consult had told him that it was fated
for him to rule Egypt fifty years : since then this time was
now expiring, and the vision of the dream also disturbed
him, SabacSs departed out of Egypt of his own free will.

Then when the Ethiopian had gone away out of Egypt,
the blind man came back from the fen-country and began
to rule again, having lived there during fifty years upon an
island which he had made by heaping up ashes and earth:
for whenever any of the Egyptians visited him bringing
food, according as it had been appointed to them severally
to do without the knowledge of the Ethiopian, he bade them
bring also some ashes for their gift. This island none was



72 HERODOTUS

able to find before Amyrtaios; that is, for more than seven
hundred years the kings who arose before Amyrtaios were
not able to find it. Now the name of this island is Elbo,
and its size is ten furlongs each way.

After him there came to the throne the priest of He-
phaistos, whose name was Sethos. This man, they said, neg-
lected and held in no regard the warrior class of the Egyp-
tians, considering that he would have no need of them; and
besides other slights which he put upon them, he also took
from them the yokes of corn-land which had been given to
them as a special gift in the reigns of the former kings,
twelve yokes to each man. After this, Sanacharib king of
the Arabians and of the Assyrians marched a great host
against Egypt. Then the warriors of the Egyptians refused
to come to the rescue, and the priest, being driven into a
strait, entered into the sanctuary of the temple and be-
wailed to the image of the god the danger which was im-
pending over him; and as he was thus lamenting, sleep came
upon him, and it seemed to him in his vision that the god
came and stood by him and encouraged him, saying that he
should suffer no evil if he went forth to meet the army of the
Arabians ; for he would himself send him helpers. Trust-
ing in these things seen in sleep, he took with him, they
said, those of the Egyptians who were willing to follow him,
and encamped in Pelusion, for by this way the invasion
came: and not one of the warrior class followed him, but
shop-keepers and artisans and men of the market. Then
after they came, there swarmed by night upon their enemies
mice of the fields, and ate up their quivers and their bows,
and moreover the handles of their shields, so that on the
next day they fled, and being without defence of arms great
numbers fell. And at the present time this king stands in
the temple of Hephaistos in stone, holding upon his hand a
mouse, and by letters inscribed he says these words : " Let
him who looks upon me learn to fear the gods."

So far in the story the Egyptians and the priests were they
who made the report, declaring that from the first king
down to this priest of Hephaistos who reigned last, there
had been three hundred and forty-one generations of men,
and that in them there had been the same number of chief-



EGYPT 73

priests and of kings: but three hundred generations of men
are equal to ten thousand years, for a hundred years is
three generations of men; and in the one-and- forty genera-
tions which remain, those I mean which were added to the
three hundred, there are one thousand three hundred and
forty years. Thus in the period of eleven thousand three
hundred and forty years they said that there had arisen no
god in human form; nor even before that time or after-
wards among the remaining kings who arose in Egypt, did
they report that anything of that kind had come to pass.
In this time they said that the sun had moved four times
from his accustomed place of rising, and where he now setn
he had thence twice had his rising, and in the place from
whence he now rises he had twice had his setting; and in
the meantime nothing in Egypt had been changed from its
usual state, neither that which comes from the earth nor
that which comes to them from the river nor that which con-
cerns diseases or deaths. And formerly when Hecataios the
historian was in Thebes, and had traced his descent and con-
nected his family with a god in the sixteenth generation
before, the priests of Zeus did for him much the same as
they did for me (though I had not traced my descent).
They led me into the sanctuary of the temple, which is of
great size, and they counted up the number, showing colossal
wooden statues in number the same as they said ; for each
chief-priest there sets up in his lifetime an image of himself:
accordingly the priests, counting and showing me these, de-
clared to me that each one of them was a son succeeding
his own father, and they went up through the series of
images from the image of the one who had died last, until
they had declared this of the whole number. And when
Hecataios had traced his descent and connected his family
with a god in the sixteenth generation, they traced a descent
in opposition to his, besides their numbering, not accepting
it from him that a man had been born from a god ; and they
traced their counter-descent thus, saying that each one of the
statues had been piromis son of piromis, until they had de-
clared this of the whole three hundred and forty-five statues,
each one being surnamed piromis; and neither with a god
nor a hero did they connect their descent. Now piromis



74 HERODOTUS

means in the tongue of Hellas " honourable and good man."
From their declaration then it followed, that they of whom
the images were had been of form like this, and far removed
from being gods: but in the time before these men they
said that gods were the rulers in Egypt, not mingling with
men, and that of these always one had power at a time; and
the last of them who was king over Egypt was Oros the son
of Osiris, whom the Hellenes call Apollo: he was king over
Egypt last, having deposed Typhon. Now Osiris in the
tongue of Hellas is Dionysos.

Among the Hellenes Heracles and Dionysos and Pan are
accounted the latest-born of the gods; but with the Egyp-
tians Pan is a very ancient god, and he is one of those which
are called the eight gods, while Heracles is of the second
rank, who are called the twelve gods, and Dionysos is of the
third rank, namely of those who were born of the twelve
gods. Now as to Heracles I have shown already how many
years old he is according to the Egyptians themselves, reck-
oning down to the reign of Amasis, and Pan is said to have
existed for yet more years than these, and Dionysos for the
smallest number of years as compared with the others; and
even for this last they reckon down to the reign of Amasis
fifteen thousand years. This the Egyptians say that they
know for a certainty, since they always kept a reckoning
and wrote down the years as they came. Now the Dionysos
who is said to have been born of Semele the daughter of
Cadmos, was born about sixteen hundred years before my
time, and Heracles who was the son of Alcmene, about nine
hundred years, and that Pan who was born of Penelope, for
of her and of Hermes Pan is said by the Hellenes to have
been born, came into being later than the wars of Troy,
about eight hundred years before my time. Of these two
accounts every man may adopt that one which he shall find
the more credible when he hears it. I however, for my part,
have already declared my opinion about them. For if these
also, like Heracles the son of Amphitryon, had appeared be-
fore all men's eyes and had lived their lives to old age in
Hellas, I mean Dionysos the son of Semele and Pan the son
of Penelope, then one would have said that these also had
been born mere men, having the names of those gods who



EGYPT 75

had come into being long before : but as it is, with regard to
Dionysos the Hellenes say that as soon as he was born Zeus
sewed him up in his thigh and carried him to Nysa, which is
above Egypt in the land of Ethiopia; and as to Pan, they
cannot say whither he went after he was born. Hence it
has become clear to me that the Hellenes learnt the names
of these gods later than those of the other gods, and trace
their descent as if their birth occurred at the time when they
first learnt their names.

Thus far then the history is told by the Egyptians them-
selves; but I will now recount that which other nations also
tell, and the Egyptians in agreement with the others, of that
which happened in this land : and there will be added to this
also something of that which I have myself seen.

Being set free after the reign of the priest of Hephaistos,
the Egyptians, since they could not live any time without a
king, set up over them twelve kings, having divided all
Egypt into twelve parts. These made intermarriages with
one another and reigned, making agreement that they would
not put down one another by force, nor seek to get an ad-
vantage over one another, but would live in perfect friend-
ship : and the reason why they made these agreements, guard-
ing them very strongly from violation, was this, namely that
an oracle had been given to them at first when they began
to exercise their rule, that he of them who should pour a
libation with a bronze cup in the temple of Hephaistos,
should be king of all Egypt (for they used to assemble to-
gether in all the temples). Moreover they resolved to join
all together and leave a memorial of themselves ; and having
so resolved they caused to be made a labyrinth, situated a
little above the lake of Moiris and nearly opposite to that
which is called the City of Crocodiles. This I saw myself,
and I found it greater than words can say. For if one
should put together and reckon up all the buildings and all
the great works produced by Hellenes, they would prove to
be inferior in labour and expense to this labyrinth, though it
is true that both the temple at Ephesos and that at Samos
are works worthy of note. The pyramids also were greater
than words can say, and each one of them is equal to many
works of the Hellenes, great as they may be; but the laby-



76 HERODOTUS

rinth surpasses even the pyramids. It has twelve courts
covered in, with gates facing one another, six upon the
North side and six upon the South, joining on one to an-
other, and the same wall surrounds them all outside ; and
there are in it two kinds of chambers, the one kind below
the ground and the other above upon these, three thousand
in number, of each kind fifteen hundred. The upper set of
chambers we ourselves saw, going through them, and we tell
of them having looked upon them with our own eyes; but
the chambers under ground we heard about only ; for the
Egyptians who had charge of them were not willing on any
account to show them, saying that here were the sepulchres
of the kings who had first built this labyrinth and of the
sacred crocodiles. Accordingly we speak of the chambers
below by what we received from hearsay, while those above
we saw ourselves and found them to be works of more than
human greatness. For the passages through the chambers,
and the goings this way and that way through the courts,
which were admirably adorned, afforded endless matter for
marvel, as we went through from a court to the chambers
beyond it, and from the chambers to colonnades, and from
the colonnades to other rooms, and then from the chambers
again to other courts. Over the whole of these is a roof
made of stone like the walls; and the walls are covered
with figures carved upon them, each court being surrounded
with pillars of white stone fitted together most perfectly ;
and at the end of the labyrinth, by the corner of it, there is
a pyramid of forty fathoms, upon which large figures are
carved, and to this there is a way made under ground.

Such is this labyrinth : but a cause for marvel even greater
than this is afforded by the lake, which is called the lake of
Moiris, along the side of which this labyrinth is built. The
measure of its circuit is three thousand six hundred furlongs
(being sixty schoines) , and this is the same number of fur-
longs as the extent of Egypt itself along the sea. The lake
lies extended lengthwise from North to South, and in depth
where it is deepest it is fifty fathoms. That this lake is
artificial and formed by digging is self-evident, for about
in the middle of the lake stand two pyramids, each rising
above the water to a height of fifty fathoms, the part which



EGYPT 77

is built below the water being of just the same height; and
upon each is placed a colossal statue of stone sitting upon a
chair. Thus the pyramids are a hundred fathoms high ; and
these hundred fathoms are equal to a furlong of six hundred
feet, the fathom being measured as six feet or four cubits,
the feet being four palms each, and the cubits six. The
water in the lake does not come from the place where it is,
for the country there is very deficient in water, but it has
been brought thither from the Nile by a canal; and for six
months the water flows into the lake, and for six months out
into the Nile again; and whenever it flows out, then for the
six months it brings into the royal treasury a talent of silver
a day from the fish which are caught, and twenty pounds
when the water comes in. The natives of the place more-
over said that this lake had an outlet under ground to the
Syrtis which is in Libya, turning towards the interior of the
continent upon the Western side and running along by the
mountain which is above Memphis. Now since I did not see
anywhere existing the earth dug out of this excavation (for
that was a matter which drew my attention), I asked those
who dwelt nearest to the lake where the earth was which
had been dug out. These told me to what place it had been
carried away; and I readily believed them, for I knew by
report that a similar thing had been done at Nineveh, the
city of the Assyrians. There certain thieves formed a de-
sign once to carry away the wealth of Sardanapallos son of
Ninos, the king, which wealth was very great and was kept
in treasure-houses under the earth. Accordingly they began
from their own dwelling, and making estimate of their di-
rection they dug under ground towards the king's palace;
and the earth which was brought out of the excavation they
used to carry away, when night came on, to the river Tigris



Online LibraryHerodotusVoyages and travels; ancient and modern → online text (page 7 of 35)