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which flows by the city of Nineveh, until at last they accom-
plished that which they desired. Similarly, as I heard, the
digging of the lake in Egypt was effected, except that it
was done not by night but during the day; for as they dug
the Egyptians carried to the Nile the earth which was dug
out ; and the river, when it received it, would naturally bear
it away and disperse it. Thus is this lake said to have been
dug out.


Now the twelve kings continued to rule justly, but in
course of time it happened thus: After sacrifice in the
temple of Hephaistos they were about to make libation on
the last day of the feast, and the chief-priest, in bringing
out for them the golden cups with which they had been
wont to pour libations, missed his reckoning and brought
eleven only for the twelve kings. Then that one of them
who was standing last in order, namely Psammetichos,
since he had no cup took off from his head his helmet, which
was of bronze, and having held it out to receive the wine
he proceeded to make libation : likewise all the other kings
were wont to wear helmets and they happened to have them
then. Now Psammetichos held out his helmet with no
treacherous meaning; but they taking note of that which
had been done by Psammetichos and of the oracle, namely
how it had been declared to them that whosoever of them
should make libation with a bronze cup should be sole king
of Egypt, recollecting, I say, the saying of the Oracle, they
did not indeed deem it right to slay Psammetichos, since they
found by examination that he had not done it with any fore-
thought, but they determined to strip him of almost all his
power and to drive him away into the fen-country, and that
from the fen-country he should not hold any dealings with
the rest of Egypt. This Psammetichos had formerly been a
fugitive from the Ethiopian Sabacos who had killed his
father Necos, from him, I say, he had then been a fugitive in
Syria; and when the Ethiopian had departed in consequence
of the vision of the dream, the Egyptians who were of the
district of Sais brought him back to his own country. Then
afterwards, when he was king, it was his fate to be a fugitive
a second time on account of the helmet, being driven by the
eleven kings into the fen-country. So then holding that he
had been grievously wronged by them, he thought how he
might take vengeance on those who had driven him out:
and when he had sent to the Oracle of Leto in the city of
Buto, where the Egyptians have their most truthful Oracle,
there was given to him the reply that vengeance would come
when men of bronze appeared from the sea. And he was
strongly disposed not to believe that bronze men would come
to help him; but after no long time had passed, certain


Ionians and Carians who had sailed forth for plunder were
compelled to come to shore in Egypt, and they having landed
and being clad in bronze armour, one of the Egyptians, not
having before seen men clad in bronze armour, came to the
fen-land and brought a report to Psammetichos that bronze
men had come from the sea and were plundering the plain.
So he, perceiving that the saying of the Oracle was coming
to pass, dealt in a friendly manner with the Ionians and
Carians, and with large promises he persuaded them to take
his part. Then when he had persuaded them, with the help
of those Egyptians who favoured his cause and of these
foreign mercenaries he overthrew the kings. Having thus
got power over all Egypt, Psammetichos made for He-
phaistos that gateway of the temple at Memphis which is
turned towards the South Wind; and he built a court for
Apis, in which Apis is kept when he appears, opposite to
the gateway of the temple, surrounded all with pillars and
covered with figures ; and instead of columns there stand to
support the roof of the court colossal statues twelve cubits
high. Now Apis is in the tongue of the Hellenes Epaphos.
To the Ionians and to the Carians who had helped him
Psammetichos granted portions of land to dwell in, opposite
to one another with the river Nile between, and these were
called "Encampments"; these portions of land he gave
them, and he paid them besides all that he had promised:
moreover he placed with them Egyptian boys to have them
taught the Hellenic tongue; and from these, who learnt the
language thoroughly, are descended the present class of in-
terpreters in Egypt. Now the Ionians and Carians occupied
these portions of land for a long time, and they are towards
the sea a little below the city of Bubastis, on that which
is called the Pelusian mouth of the Nile. These men king
Amasis afterwards removed from thence and established
them at Memphis, making them into a guard for himself
against the Egyptians : and they being settled in Egypt, we
who are Hellenes know by intercourse with them the cer-
tainty of all that which happened in Egypt beginning from
king Psammetichos and afterwards ; for these were the first
men of foreign tongue who settled in Egypt: and in the
land from which they were removed there still remained


down to my time the sheds where their ships were drawn up
and the ruins of their houses.

Thus then Psammetichos obtained Egypt: and of the
Oracle which is in Egypt I have made mention often before
this, and now I will give an account of it, seeing that it is
worthy to be described. This Oracle which is in Egypt is
sacred to Leto, and it is established in a great city near that
mouth of the Nile which is called Sebennytic, as one sails
up the river from the sea ; and the name of this city where
the Oracle is found is Buto, as I have said before in men-
tioning it. In this Buto there is a temple of Apollo and
Artemis ; and the temple-house of Leto, in which the Oracle
is, is both great in itself and has a gateway of the height of
ten fathoms : but that which caused me most to marvel of the
things to be seen there, I will now tell. There is in this
sacred enclosure a house of Leto made of one single stone
as regards both height and length, and of which all the walls
are in these two directions equal, each being forty cubits ;
and for the covering in of the roof there lies another stone
upon the top, the cornice measuring four cubits. This house
then of all the things that were to be seen by me in that
temple is the most marvellous, and among those which come
next in the island called Chemmis. This is situated in a
deep and broad lake by the side of the temple at Buto, and
it is said by the Egyptians that this island is a floating
island. I myself did not see it either floating about or moved
from its place, and I feel surprise at hearing of it, wondering
if it be indeed a floating island. In this island of which I
speak there is a great temple-house of Apollo, and three
several altars are set up within, and there are planted in the
island many palm-trees and other trees, both bearing fruit
and not bearing fruit. And the Egyptians, when they say
that it is floating, add this story, namely that in this island,
which formerly was not floating, Leto, being one of the
eight gods who came into existence first, and dwelling in
the city of Buto where she has this Oracle, received Apollo
from Isis as a charge and preserved him, concealing him
in the island which is said now to be a floating island, at that
time when Typhon came after him seeking everywhere and
desiring to find the son of Osiris. Now they say that Apollo


and Artemis are children of Dionysos and of Isis, and that
Leto became their nurse and preserver ; and in the Egyptian
tongue Apollo is Oros, Demeter is Isis, and Artemis is
Bubastis. From this story and from no other ^Eschylus
the son of Euphorion took this which I shall say, wherein
he differs from all the preceding poets; he represented
namely that Artemis was the daughter of Demeter. For
this reason then, they say, it became a floating island.

Such is the story which they tell; but as for Psamme-
tichos, he was king over Egypt for four-and-fifty years, of
which for thirty years save one he was sitting before Azotos,
a great city of Syria, besieging it, until at last he took it:
and this Azotos of all cities about which we have knowledge
held out for the longest time under a siege.

The son of Psammetichos was Necos, and he became king
of Egypt. This man was the first who attempted the channel
leading to the Erythraian Sea, which Dareios the Persian
afterwards completed : the length of this is a voyage of four
days, and in breadth it was so dug that two triremes could
go side by side driven by oars ; and the water is brought into
it from the Nile. The channel is conducted a little above
the city of Bubastis by Patumos the Arabian city, and runs
into the Erythraian Sea : and it is dug first along those parts
of the plain of Egypt which lie towards Arabia, just above
which run the mountains which extend opposite Memphis,
where are the stone-quarries, along the base of these
mountains the channel is conducted from West to East for
a great way; and after that it is directed towards a break
in the hills and tends from these mountains towards the
noon-day and the South Wind to the Arabian gulf. Now
in the place where the journey is least and shortest from the
Northern to the Southern Sea (which is also called
Erythraian), that is from Mount Casion, which is the
boundary between Egypt and Syria, the distance is exactly
a thousand furlongs to the Arabian gulf; but the channel is
much longer, since it is more winding; and in the reign of
Necos there perished while digging it twelve myriads of the
Egyptians. Now Necos ceased in the midst of his digging,
because the utterance of an Oracle impeded him, which was
to the effect that he was working for the Barbarian : and the


Egyptians call all men Barbarians who do not agree with
them in speech. Thus having ceased from the work of the
channel, Necos betook himself to waging wars, and triremes
were built by him, some for the Northern Sea and others
in the Arabian gulf for the Erythraian Sea; and of these
the sheds are still to be seen. These ships he used when he
needed them ; and also on land Necos engaged battle at
Magdolos with the Syrians, and conquered them; and
after this he took Cadytis, which is a great city of Syria:
and the dress which he wore when he made these con-
quests he dedicated to Apollo, sending it to Branchidai of
the Milesians. After this, having reigned in all sixteen years,
he brought his life to an end, and handed on the kingdom to
Psammis his son.

While this Psammis was king of Egypt, there came to him
men sent by the Eleians, who boasted that they ordered the
contest at Olympia in the most just and honourable manner
possible and thought that not even the Egyptians, the wisest
of men, could find out anything besides, to be added to their
rules. Now when the Eleians came to Egypt and said that
for which they had come, then this king called together
those of the Egyptians who were reputed the wisest, and
when the Egyptians had come together they heard the
Eleians tell of all that which it was their part to do in regard
to the contest; and when they had related everything, they
said that they had come to learn in addition anything which
the Egyptians might be able to find out besides, which was
juster than this. They then having consulted together asked
the Eleians whether their own citizens took part in the con-
test; and they said that it was permitted to any one who
desired it, both of their own people and of the other Hellenes
equally, to take part in the contest: upon which the Egyptians
said that in so ordering the games they had wholly missed
the mark of justice ; for it could not be but that they would
take part with the man of their own State, if he was con-
tending, and so act unfairly to the stranger: but if they
really desired, as they said, to order the games justly, and
if this was the cause for which they had come to Egypt, they
advised them to order the contest so as to be for strangers
alone to contend in, and that no Eleian should be permitted


to contend. Such was the suggestion made by the Egyptians
to the Eleians.

When Psammis had been king of Egypt for only six
years and had made an expedition to Ethiopia and imme-
diately afterwards had ended his life, Apries the son of
Psammis received the kingdom in succession. This man
came to be the most prosperous of all the kings up to that
time except only his forefather Psammetichos ; and he
reigned five-and-twenty years, during which he led an army
against Sidon and fought a sea-fight with the king of Tyre.
Since however it was fated that evil should come upon him,
it came by occasion of a matter which I shall relate at
greater length in the Libyan history, and at present but
shortly. Apries having sent a great expedition against the
Kyrenians, met with correspondingly great disaster ; and the
Egyptians considering him to blame for this revolted from
him, supposing that Apries had with forethought sent them
out to evident calamity, in order (as they said) that there
might be a slaughter of them, and he might the more
securely rule over the other Egyptians. Being indignant
at this, both these men who had returned froiK the expedition
and also the friends of those who had perished made revolt
openly. Hearing this Apries sent to them Amasis, to cause
them to cease by persuasion ; and when he had come and was
seeking to restrain the Egyptians, as he was speaking and
telling them not to do so, one of the Egyptians stood up
behind him and put a helmet upon his head, saying as he did
so that he put it on to crown him king. And to him this
that was done was in some degree not unwelcome, as he
proved by his behaviour; for as soon as the revolted
Egyptians had set him up as king, he prepared to march
against Apries : and Apries hearing this sent to Amasis one
of the Egyptians who were about his own person, a man of
reputation, whose name was Patarbemis, enjoining him to
bring Amasis alive into his presence. When this Patarbemis
came and summoned Amasis, the latter, who happened to be
sitting on horseback, lifted up his leg and behaved in an
unseemly manner, bidding him take that back to Apries.
Nevertheless, they say, Patarbemis made demand of him that
he should go to the king, seeing that the king had sent to


summon him; and he answered him that he had for some
time past been preparing to do so, and that Apries would
have no occasion to find fault with him, for he would both
come himself and bring others with him. Then Patarbemis
both perceiving his intention from that which he said, and
also seeing his preparations, departed in haste, desiring to
make known as quickly as possible to the king the things
which were being done: and when he came back to Apries
not bringing Amasis, the king paying no regard to that which
he said, but being moved by violent anger, ordered his ears
and his nose to be cut off. And the rest of the Egyptians
who still remained on his side, when they saw the man of
most repute among them thus suffering shameful outrage,
waited no longer but joined the others in revolt, and
delivered themselves over to Amasis. Then Apries having
heard this also, armed his foreign mercenaries and marched
against the Egyptians: now he had about him Carian and
Ionian mercenaries to the number of thirty thousand; and
his royal palace was in the city of Sals, of great size and
worthy to be seen. So Apries and his army were going
against the Egyptians, and Amasis and those with him were
going against the mercenaries; and both sides came to the
city of Momemphis and were about to make trial of one
another in fight.

Now of the Egyptians there are seven classes, and of
these one class is called that of the priests, and another that
of the warriors, while the others are the cowherds, swine-
herds, shopkeepers, interpreters, and boatmen. This is the
number of the classes of the Egyptians, and their names are
given them from the occupations which they follow. Of
them the warriors are called Calasirians and Hermotybians,
and they are of the following districts, for all Egypt is
divided into districts. The districts of the Hermotybians
are those of Busiris, Sais, Chemmis, Papremis, the island
called Prosopitis, and the half of Natho, of these districts
are the Hermotybians, who reached when most numerous
the number of sixteen myriads. Of these not one has learnt
anything of handicraft, but they are given up to war entirely.
Again the districts of the Calasirians are those of Thebes,
Bubastis, Aphthis, Tanis, Mendes, Sebennytos, Athribis,


Pharbaithos, Thmuis, Onuphis, Anytis, Myecphoris, this
last is on an island opposite to the city of Bubastis. These
are the districts of the Calasirians; and they reached, when
most numerous, to the number of five-and-twenty myriads
of men; nor is it lawful for these, any more than for the
others, to practise any craft; but they practise that which
has to do with war only, handing down the tradition from
father to son. Now whether the Hellenes have learnt this
also from the Egyptians, I am not able to say for certain,
since I see that the Thracians also and Scythians and Per-
sians and Lydians and almost all the Barbarians esteem
those of their citizens who learn the arts, and the de-
scendants of them, as less honourable than the rest; while
those who have got free from all practice of manual arts
are accounted noble, and especially those who are devoted
to war: however that may be, the Hellenes have all learnt
this, and especially the Lacedemonians; but the Corinthians
least of all cast slight upon those who practise handicraft.

The following privilege was specially granted to this class
and to none others of the Egyptians except the priests, that is
to say, each man had twelve yokes of land specially granted
to him free from imposts: now the yoke of land measures
a hundred Egyptian cubits every way, and the Egyptian
cubit is, as it happens, equal to that of Samos. This, I say,
was a special privilege granted to all, and they also had
certain advantages in turn and not the same men twice;
that is to say, a thousand of the Calasirians and a thousand
of the Hermotybians acted as body-guard to the king during
each year; and these had besides their yokes of land an
allowance given them for each day of five pounds weight
of bread to each man, and two pounds of beef, and four
half-pints of wine. This was the allowance given to those
who were serving as the king's body-guard for the time

So when Apries leading his foreign mercenaries, and
Amasis at the head of the whole body of the Egyptians, in
their approach to one another had come to the city of Mo-
memphis, they engaged battle: and although the foreign
troops fought well, yet being much inferior in number they
were worsted by reason of this. But Apries is said to have


supposed that not even a god would be able to cause him to
cease from his rule, so firmly did he think that it was
established. In that battle then, I say, he was worsted, and
being taken alive was brought away to the city of Sais, to
that which had formerly been his own dwelling but from
thenceforth was the palace of Amasis. There for some time
he was kept in the palace, and Amasis dealt well with him
but at last, since the Egyptians blamed him, saying that he
acted not rightly in keeping alive him who was the greatest
foe both to themselves and to him, therefore he delivered
Apries over to the Egyptians; and they strangled him, and
after that buried him in the burial-place of his fathers : this
is in the temple of Athene, close to the sanctuary, on the left
hand as you enter. Now the men of Sais buried all those of
this district who had been kings, within the temple; for
the tomb of Amasis also, though it is further from the
sanctuary than that of Apries and his forefathers, yet this
too is within the court of the temple, and it consists of a
colonnade of stone of great size, with pillars carved to imi-
tate date-palms, and otherwise sumptuously adorned; and
within the colonnade are double doors, and inside the doors
a sepulchral chamber. Also at Sais there is the burial-place
of him whom I account it not pious to name in connexion
with such a matter, which is in the temple of Athene behind
the house of the goddess, stretching along the whole wall of
it; and in the sacred enclosure stand great obelisks of stone,
and near them is a lake adorned with an edging of stone
and fairly made in a circle, being in size, as it seemed to me,
equal to that which is called the " Round Pool " in Delos.
On this lake they perform by night the show of his suffer-
ings, and this the Egyptians call Mysteries. Of these things
I know more fully in detail how they take place, but I shall
leave this unspoken ; and of the mystic rites of Demeter,
which the Hellenes call thesmophoria, of these also, although
I know, I shall leave unspoken all except so much as piety
permits me to tell. The daughters of Danaos were they
who brought this rite out of Egypt and taught it to the
women of the Pelasgians; then afterwards when all the in-
habitants of Peloponnese were driven out by the Dorians,
the rite was lost, and only those who were left behind cf the


Peloponnesians and not driven out, that is to say the Ar-
cadians, preserved it.

Apries having thus been overthrown, Amasis became
king, being of the district of Sals, and the name of the city
whence he was is Siuph. Now at the first the Egyptians
despised Amasis and held him in no great regard, because
he had been a man of the people and was of no distinguished
family; but afterwards Amasis won them over to himself
by wisdom and not wilfulness. Among innumerable other
things of price which he had, there was a foot-basin of gold
in which both Amasis himself and all his guests were wont
always to wash their feet. This he broke up, and of it he
caused to be made the image of a god, and set it up in the
city, where it was most convenient ; and the Egyptians went
continually to visit the image and did great reverence to it.
Then Amasis, having learnt that which was done by the men
of the city, called together the Egyptians and made known
to them the matter, saying that the image had been produced
from the foot-basin, into which formerly the Egyptians
used to vomit and make water, and in which they washed
their feet, whereas now they did to it great reverence; and
just so, he continued, had he himself now fared, as the foot-
basin ; for though formerly he was a man of the people, yet
now he was their king, and he bade them accordingly honour
him and have regard for him. In such manner he won the
Egyptians to himself, so that they consented to be his sub-
jects; and his ordering of affairs was this: In the early
morning, and until the time of the filling of the market he
did with a good will the business which was brought before
him; but after this he passed the time in drinking and in
jesting at his boon-companions, and was frivolous and play-
ful. And his friends being troubled at it admonished him in
some such words as these : " O king, thou dost not rightly
govern thyself in thus letting thyself descend to behaviour so
trifling; for thou oughtest rather to have been sitting through-
out the day stately upon a stately throne and administering thy
business ; and so the Egyptians would have been assured that
they were ruled by a great man, and thou wouldest have had
a better report: but as it is, thou art acting by no means in
a kingly fashion." And he answered them thus : " They who


have bows stretch them at such time as they wish to use them,
and when they have finished using them they loose them
again; for if they were stretched tight always they would
break, so that the men would not be able to use them when
they needed them. So also is the state of man: if he should
always be in earnest and not relax himself for sport at the
due time, he would either go mad or be struck with stupor be-
fore he was aware ; and knowing this well, I distribute a
portion of the time to each of the two ways of living." Thus
he replied to his friends. It is said however that Amasis,
even when he was in a private station, was a lover of drink-
ing and of jesting, and not at all seriously disposed; and
whenever his means of livelihood failed him through his
drinking and luxurious living, he would go about and steal ;
and they from whom he stole would charge him with having
their property, and when he denied it would bring him

Online LibraryHerodotusVoyages and travels; ancient and modern → online text (page 8 of 35)