The History of Herodotus

20090420_herodotus_-_the_histories_v1.0_(iphone_misc)THE HISTORY OF HERODOTUS

Translated into English



{e Herodotou diathesis en apasin epieikes, kai tois men agathois
sunedomene, tois de kakois sunalgousa}.–Dion. Halic.

{monos ‘Erodotos ‘Omerikhotatos egeneto}.–Longinus.


This text was prepared from an edition dated 1890, published by
MacMillan and Co., London and New York.

Greek text has been transliterated and marked with brackets, as in
the opening citation above.


If a new translation of Herodotus does not justify itself, it will
hardly be justified in a preface; therefore the question whether it
was needed may be left here without discussion. The aim of the
translator has been above all things faithfulness–faithfulness to the
manner of expression and to the structure of sentences, as well as to
the meaning of the Author. At the same time it is conceived that the
freedom and variety of Herodotus is not always best reproduced by such
severe consistency of rendering as is perhaps desirable in the case of
the Epic writers before and the philosophical writers after his time:
nor again must his simplicity of thought and occasional quaintness be
reproduced in the form of archaisms of language; and that not only
because the affectation of an archaic style would necessarily be
offensive to the reader, but also because in language Herodotus is not
archaic. His style is the “best canon of the Ionic speech,” marked,
however, not so much by primitive purity as by eclectic variety. At
the same time it is characterised largely by the poetic diction of the
Epic and Tragic writers; and while the translator is free to employ
all the resources of modern English, so far as he has them at his
command, he must carefully retain this poetical colouring and by all
means avoid the courtier phrase by which the style of Herodotus has
too often been made “more noble.”[1]

As regards the text from which this translation has been made, it is
based upon that of Stein’s critical edition (Berlin, 1869-1871), that
is to say the estimate there made of the comparative value of the
authorities has been on the whole accepted as a just one, rather than
that which depreciates the value of the Medicean MS. and of the class
to which it belongs. On the other hand the conjectural emendations
proposed by Stein have very seldom been adopted, and his text has been
departed from in a large number of other instances also, which will
for the most part be found recorded in the notes.

As it seemed that even after Stein’s re-collation of the Medicean MS.
there were doubts felt by some scholars[2] as to the true reading in
some places of this MS., which is very generally acknowledged to be
the most important, I thought it right to examine it myself in all
those passages where questions about text arise which concern a
translator, that is in nearly five hundred places altogether; and the
results, when they are worth observing, are recorded in the notes. At
the same time, by the suggestion of Dr. Stein, I re-collated a large
part of the third book in the MS. which is commonly referred to as F
(i.e. Florentinus), called by Stein C, and I examined this MS. also in
a certain number of other places. It should be understood that
wherever in the notes I mention the reading of any particular MS. by
name, I do so on my own authority.

The notes have been confined to a tolerably small compass. Their
purpose is, first, in cases where the text is doubtful, to indicate
the reading adopted by the translator and any other which may seem to
have reasonable probability, but without discussion of the
authorities; secondly, where the rendering is not quite literal (and
in other cases where it seemed desirable), to quote the words of the
original or to give a more literal version; thirdly, to add an
alternative version in cases where there seems to be a doubt as to the
true meaning; and lastly, to give occasionally a short explanation, or
a reference from one passage of the author to another.

For the orthography of proper names reference may be made to the note
prefixed to the index. No consistent system has been adopted, and the
result will therefore be open to criticism in many details; but the
aim has been to avoid on the one hand the pedantry of seriously
altering the form of those names which are fairly established in the
English language of literature, as distinguished from that of
scholarship, and on the other hand the absurdity of looking to Latin
rather than to Greek for the orthography of the names which are not so
established. There is no intention to put forward any theory about

The index of proper names will, it is hoped, be found more complete
and accurate than those hitherto published. The best with which I was
acquainted I found to have so many errors and omissions[3] that I was
compelled to do the work again from the beginning. In a collection of
more than ten thousand references there must in all probability be
mistakes, but I trust they will be found to be few.

My acknowledgments of obligation are due first to Dr. Stein, both for
his critical work and also for his most excellent commentary, which I
have had always by me. After this I have made most use of the editions
of Krüger, Bähr, Abicht, and (in the first two books) Mr. Woods. As to
translations, I have had Rawlinson’s before me while revising my own
work, and I have referred also occasionally to the translations of
Littlebury (perhaps the best English version as regards style, but
full of gross errors), Taylor, and Larcher. In the second book I have
also used the version of B. R. reprinted by Mr. Lang: of the first
book of this translation I have access only to a fragment written out
some years ago, when the British Museum was within my reach. Other
particular obligations are acknowledged in the notes.


[1] See the remarks of P.-L. Courier (on Larcher’s version) in the
preface to his specimens of a new translation of Herodotus
(/Œuvres complètes de P.-L. Courier/, Bruxelles, 1828).

[2] Mr. Woods, for example, in his edition of the first book
(published in 1873) gives a list of readings for the first and
second books, in which he almost invariably prefers the authority
of Gronovius to that of Stein, where their reports differ. In so
doing he is wrong in all cases (I think) except one, namely i. 134
{to degomeno}. He is wrong, for examine, in i. 189, where the MS.
has {touto}, i. 196 {an agesthai}, i. 199 {odon}, ii. 15 {te de},
ii. 95 {up auto}, ii. 103 {kai prosotata}, ii. 124 {to addo}
(without {dao}), ii. 181 {no}. Abicht also has made several
inaccurate statements, e.g. i. 185, where the MS. has {es ton
Euphreten}, and vii. 133 {Xerxes}.

[3] For example in the index of proper names attached to Stein’s
annotated edition (Berlin, 1882), to which I am under obligation,
having checked my own by it, I find that I have marked upwards of
two hundred mistakes or oversights: no doubt I have been saved by
it from at least as many.




This is the Showing forth of the Inquiry of Herodotus of
Halicarnassos, to the end that[1] neither the deeds of men may be
forgotten by lapse of time, nor the works[2] great and marvellous,
which have been produced some by Hellenes and some by Barbarians, may
lose their renown; and especially that the causes may be remembered
for which these waged war with one another.

1. Those of the Persians who have knowledge of history declare that
the Phenicians first began the quarrel. These, they say, came from
that which is called the Erythraian Sea to this of ours; and having
settled in the land where they continue even now to dwell, set
themselves forthwith to make long voyages by sea. And conveying
merchandise of Egypt and of Assyria they arrived at other places and
also at Argos; now Argos was at that time in all points the first of
the States within that land which is now called Hellas;–the
Phenicians arrived then at this land of Argos, and began to dispose of
their ship’s cargo: and on the fifth or sixth day after they had
arrived, when their goods had been almost all sold, there came down to
the sea a great company of women, and among them the daughter of the
king; and her name, as the Hellenes also agree, was Io the daughter of
Inachos. These standing near to the stern of the ship were buying of
the wares such as pleased them most, when of a sudden the Phenicians,
passing the word from one to another, made a rush upon them; and the
greater part of the women escaped by flight, but Io and certain others
were carried off. So they put them on board their ship, and forthwith
departed, sailing away to Egypt. 2. In this manner the Persians report
that Io came to Egypt, not agreeing therein with the Hellenes,[3] and
this they say was the first beginning of wrongs. Then after this, they
say, certain Hellenes (but the name of the people they are not able to
report) put in to the city of Tyre in Phenicia and carried off the
king’s daughter Europa;–these would doubtless be Cretans;–and so
they were quits for the former injury. After this however the
Hellenes, they say, were the authors of the second wrong; for they
sailed in to Aia of Colchis and to the river Phasis with a ship of
war, and from thence, after they had done the other business for which
they came, they carried off the king’s daughter Medea: and the king of
Colchis sent a herald to the land of Hellas and demanded satisfaction
for the rape[4] and to have his daughter back; but they answered that,
as the Barbarians had given them no satisfaction for the rape of Io
the Argive, so neither would they give satisfaction to the Barbarians
for this.

3. In the next generation after this, they say, Alexander the son of
Priam, having heard of these things, desired to get a wife for himself
by violence[4] from Hellas, being fully assured that he would not be
compelled to give any satisfaction for this wrong, inasmuch as the
Hellenes gave none for theirs. So he carried off Helen, and the
Hellenes resolved to send messengers first and to demand her back with
satisfaction for the rape; and when they put forth this demand, the
others alleged to them the rape of Medea, saying that the Hellenes
were now desiring satisfaction to be given to them by others, though
they had given none themselves nor had surrendered the person when
demand was made.

4. Up to this point, they say, nothing more happened than the carrying
away of women on both sides; but after this the Hellenes were very
greatly to blame; for they set the first example of war, making an
expedition into Asia before the Barbarians made any into Europe. Now
they say that in their judgment, though it is an act of wrong to carry
away women by force, it is a folly to set one’s heart on taking
vengeance for their rape, and the wise course is to pay no regard when
they have been carried away; for it is evident that they would never
be carried away if they were not themselves willing to go. And the
Persians say that they, namely the people of Asia, when their women
were carried away by force, had made it a matter of no account, but
the Hellenes on account of a woman of Lacedemon gathered together a
great armament, and then came to Asia and destroyed the dominion of
Priam; and that from this time forward they had always considered the
Hellenic race to be their enemy: for Asia and the Barbarian races
which dwell there the Persians claim as belonging to them; but Europe
and the Hellenic race they consider to be parted off from them.

5. The Persians for their part say that things happened thus; and they
conclude that the beginning of their quarrel with the Hellenes was on
account of the taking of Ilion: but as regards Io the Phenicians do
not agree with the Persians in telling the tale thus; for they deny
that they carried her off to Egypt by violent means, and they say on
the other hand that when they were in Argos she was intimate with the
master of their ship, and perceiving that she was with child, she was
ashamed to confess it to her parents, and therefore sailed away with
the Phenicians of her own will, for fear of being found out. These are
the tales told by the Persians and the Phenicians severally: and
concerning these things I am not going to say that they happened thus
or thus,[4a] but when I have pointed to the man who first within my
own knowledge began to commit wrong against the Hellenes, I shall go
forward further with the story, giving an account of the cities of
men, small as well as great: for those which in old times were great
have for the most part become small, while those that were in my own
time great used in former times to be small: so then, since I know
that human prosperity never continues steadfast, I shall make mention
of both indifferently.


6. Crœsus was Lydian by race, the son of Alyattes and ruler of the
nations which dwell on this side of the river Halys; which river,
flowing from the South between the Syrians[5] and the Paphlagonians,
runs out towards the North Wind into that Sea which is called the
Euxine. This Crœsus, first of all the Barbarians of whom we have
knowledge, subdued certain of the Hellenes and forced them to pay
tribute, while others he gained over and made them his friends. Those
whom he subdued were the Ionians, the Aiolians, and the Dorians who
dwell in Asia; and those whom he made his friends were the
Lacedemonians. But before the reign of Crœsus all the Hellenes were
free; for the expedition of the Kimmerians, which came upon Ionia
before the time of Crœsus, was not a conquest of the cities but a
plundering incursion only.[6] 7. Now the supremacy which had belonged
to the Heracleidai came to the family of Crœsus, called Mermnadai, in
the following manner:–Candaules, whom the Hellenes call Myrsilos, was
ruler of Sardis and a descendant of Alcaios, son of Heracles: for
Agron, the son of Ninos, the son of Belos, the son of Alcaios, was the
first of the Heracleidai who became king of Sardis, and Candaules the
son of Myrsos was the last; but those who were kings over this land
before Agrond, were descendants of Lydos the son of Atys, whence this
whole nation was called Lydian, having been before called Meonian.
From these the Heracleidai, descended from Heracles and the slave-girl
of Iardanos, obtained the government, being charged with it by reason
of an oracle; and they reigned for two-and-twenty generations of men,
five hundred and five years, handing on the power from father to son,
till the time of Clandaules the son of Myrsos. 8. This Candaules then
of whom I speak had become passionately in love with his own wife; and
having become so, he deemed that his wife was fairer by far than all
other women; and thus deeming, to Gyges the son of Daskylos (for he of
all his spearmen was the most pleasing to him), to this Gyges, I say,
he used to impart as well the more weighty of his affairs as also the
beauty of his wife, praising it above measure: and after no long time,
since it was destined that evil should happen to Candaules, he said to
Gyges as follows: “Gyges, I think that thou dost not believe me when I
tell thee of the beauty of my wife, for it happens that men’s ears are
less apt of belief than their eyes: contrive therefore means by which
thou mayest look upon her naked.” But he cried aloud and said:
“Master, what word of unwisdom is this which thou dost utter, bidding
me look upon my mistress naked? When a woman puts off her tunic she
puts off her modesty also. Moreover of old time those fair sayings
have been found out by men, from which we ought to learn wisdom; and
of these one is this,–that each man should look on his own: but I
believe indeed that she is of all women the fairest and I entreat thee
not to ask of me that which it is not lawful for me to do.” 9. With
such words as these he resisted, fearing lest some evil might come to
him from this; but the king answered him thus: “Be of good courage,
Gyges, and have no fear, either of me, that I am saying these words to
try thee, or of my wife, lest any harm may happen to thee from her.
For I will contrive it so from the first that she shall not even
perceive that she has been seen by thee. I will place thee in the room
where we sleep, behind the open door;[7] and after I have gone in, my
wife also will come to lie down. Now there is a seat near the entrance
of the room, and upon this she will lay her garments as she takes them
off one by one; and so thou wilt be able to gaze upon her at full
leisure. And when she goes from the chair to the bed and thou shalt be
behind her back, then let it be thy part to take care that she sees
thee not as thou goest through the door.” 10. He then, since he might
not avoid it, gave consent: and Candaules, when he considered that it
was time to rest, led Gyges to the chamber; and straightway after this
the woman also appeared: and Gyges looked upon her after she came in
and as she laid down her garments; and when she had her back turned
towards him, as she went to the bed, then he slipped away from his
hiding-place and was going forth. And as he went out, the woman caught
sight of him, and perceiving that which had been done by her husband
she did not cry out, though struck with shame,[8] but she made as
though she had not perceived the matter, meaning to avenge herself
upon Candaules: for among the Lydians as also among most other
Barbarians it is a shame even for a man to be seen naked. 11. At the
time then she kept silence, as I say, and made no outward sign; but as
soon as day had dawned, and she made ready those of the servants whom
she perceived to be the most attached to herself, and after that she
sent to summon Gyges. He then, not supposing that anything of that
which had been done was known to her, came upon her summons; for he
had been accustomed before to go[9] whenever the queen summoned him.
And when Gyges was come, the woman said to him these words: “There are
now two ways open to thee, Gyges, and I give thee the choice which of
the two thou wilt prefer to take. Either thou must slay Candaules and
possess both me and the kingdom of Lydia, or thou must thyself here on
the spot be slain, so that thou mayest not in future, by obeying
Candaules in all things, see that which thou shouldest not. Either he
must die who formed this design, or thou who hast looked upon me naked
and done that which is not accounted lawful.” For a time then Gyges
was amazed at these words, and afterwards he began to entreat her that
she would not bind him by necessity to make such a choice: then
however, as he could not prevail with her, but saw that necessity was
in truth set before him either to slay his master or to be himself
slain by others, he made the choice to live himself; and he inquired
further as follows: “Since thou dost compel me to take my master’s
life against my own will, let me hear from thee also what is the
manner in which we shall lay hands upon him.” And she answering said:
“From that same place shall the attempt be, where he displayed me
naked; and we will lay hands upon him as he sleeps.” 12. So after they
had prepared the plot, when night came on, (for Gyges was not let go
nor was there any way of escape for him, but he must either be slain
himself or slay Candaules), he followed the woman to the bedchamber;
and she gave him a dagger and concealed him behind that very same
door. Then afterwards, while Candaules was sleeping, Gyges came
privily up to him[10] and slew him, and he obtained both his wife and
his kingdom: of him moreover Archilochos the Parian, who lived about
that time, made mention in a trimeter iambic verse.[11] 13. He
obtained the kingdom however and was strengthened in it by means of
the Oracle at Delphi; for when the Lydians were angry because of the
fate of Candaules, and had risen in arms, a treaty was made between
the followers of Gyges and the other Lydians to this effect, that if
the Oracle should give answer that he was to be king of the Lydians,
he should be king, and if not, he should give back the power to the
sons of Heracles. So the Oracle gave answer, and Gyges accordingly
became king: yet the Pythian prophetess said this also, that vengeance
for the Heracleidai should come upon the descendants of Gyges in the
fifth generation. Of this oracle the Lydians and their kings made no
account until it was in fact fulfilled.

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