LIFE OF HERODOTUS
By Professor Dahlman
CHAPTER THE FIRST. HERODOTUS IN THE LAND OF HIS BIRTH.
CHAPTER THE SECOND. HERODOTUS IS SAID TO HAVE RECITED HIS HISTORY AT OLYMPIA
CHAPTER THE THIRD. WHEN AND WHERE DID HERODOTUS WRITE?
CHAPTER THE FOURTH. HERODOTUS AS A TRAVELLER.
CHAPTER THE FIFTH. RESULTS OF HIS TRAVELS.
CHAPTER THE SIXTH. A STORE OF WRITTEN MATERIALS FOR A HISTORY ALREADY EXISTING IN GREECE
CHAPTER THE SEVENTH. A GLANCE AT THE PLAN AND EXECUTION OF THE HISTORICAL WORK OF HERODOTUS.
CHAPTER THE EIGHTH. THE CANDOUR OF HERODOTUS IRRESPECTIVE, BUT THE MORE GUARDED THE NEARER TO HIS OWN TIMES.
CHAPTER THE NINTH. HERODOTUS AT THURIUM.
CHAPTER THE FIRST.
HERODOTUS IN THE LAND OF HIS BIRTH.
Section I. Chronological resting-point for a life of Herodotus, Suidas
We can hardly imagine an individual to have perused with attention the historical work of Herodotus, and (when most warmed by its living pictures of human strength and weakness) to have found himself with surprise at the conclusion, who would not gladly have cast a look of gratitude upon the author. He who understood so well how to observe and write should have preserved to us some account of himself. The noble forgetfulness of self which distinguishes the most beautiful writers of antiquity, fills us at once with admiration and a feeling of privation. How was the impulse first given to this wonderful man? In what way did his genius thrive? Whence came the funds to discharge the expenses of his travels for improvement? His work remains deaf to our question, and silent as Nature concerning her great First Cause. Concerning the date also of the production of the work all express information is denied us. It appears, however, that the author himself saw nothing of the Persian war, himself took no part in its transactions; yet he lived at no great distance of time from it, since he certainly knew Thersander, the Orchomenian, who was present at an entertainment given to Mardonius at Thebes, when the melancholy presentiment suddenly occurred to a Persian who shared Thersander’s couch, “that within a few days all their splendour and vast array would come to nothing.”
All external sources also are for a long time entirely silent concerning his book, and for a whole century concerning his existence. At last there occur three essential dates or points of time, which may serve as subsidiary aids towards a scanty sketch of the circumstances of his life.
First. The historian was born about 484 BC in the first year of the seventy-fourth Olympiad; since Pamphila, a female writer, who in the time of the Emperor Nero composed an historical work abounding in valuable information, mentions that Herodotus was exactly fifty-three years old at the commencement of the Peloponnesian war (BC 431).
Secondly. He took part in that colony, formed of different Grecian races, which, twelve years before the Peloponnesian war (certainly in the first half of the eighty-fourth Olympiad, that is 444 or 443 BC), sailed under the auspices of the Athenians to Italy, and became the founders of Thurium.
Thirdly. His life extended considerably into the Peloponnesian war; his countryman, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who is certainly of later date, attests this.
Suidas satisfies himself with the following meagre article on the life of Herodotus.
“Herodotus, son of Lyxes and Dryo, of a noble family of Halicarnassus, had a brother named Theodoras; emigrated to Samos on account of Lygdamis, the third Tyrant of Halicarnassus, i.e. reckoning from Artemisia. (Since Pisindelis was the son of Artemisia, and Lygdamis son of Pisindelis). In Samos he adopted the Ionic dialect and wrote a history in nine books, beginning from Cyrus the Persian, and from Candaules, king of Lydia. Returning to Halicarnassus he drove out the tyrant; but afterwards, because he saw that he was disliked by his fellow-citizens, he, as a volunteer, accompanied the Athenians, who were going out as settlers to Thurium. Here also he died, and lies buried in the market-place”. But others relate that he died at Pella. The books of his History bear the title of “the Muses”. Of Herodotus the Apostate Julian says in an epistle: Here follows a passage from a letter of that emperor, of which nothing concerns us now, but to remark that Herodotus is not mentioned by name, but is only referred to as the historian of Thurium.
Of modern writers, since Wesseling, Larcher and Creuzer have especially applied themselves to the illustration of the circumstances of the personal history of Herodotus with learned acuteness and undoubted merit. But since their whole edifice seems to rest upon untenable grounds, it is allowable for me also to try the subject in my own way. I have, I know, prejudice and prepossession opposed to me; there is so much the more reason for me to attempt the enquiry, as every one, that chooses, can look on and observe the progress of my labour in my very workshop.
Section II. The birth-place of Herodotus.
Herodotus was born a Persian subject in a small tributary kingdom, which, founded upon originally Carian ground on the coast of Asia Minor, comprised several cities of Greek population. His native city, Halicarnassus, the seat of government, belonged in olden times to the six Dorian colonies who celebrated the anniversary of their confederation in a temple of Apollo on the Triopian promontory, until the city forfeited the privilege of admission to the temple through the wanton insolence of one of its citizens, supported however by the community; after that time it was simply called Carian. At the time when the Lydian kingdom was working its way slowly but successfully towards the Grecian sea, subduing in its progress the flourishing colonies of the Greeks, the warlike Carians also fell into a state of dependence, and subsequently passed over along with the Lydians to the hands of a still greater conqueror, Cyrus, without any remarkable efforts to oppose him. A similar destiny bound men together in similar undertakings; in the great insurrection of the Ionian and Aeolian cities against Darius, son of Hystaspes, the Carians made common cause with them, but with equally bad success. It was the custom of this founder of the second Persian dynasty to invest those individuals who had deserved well of him by hand or head, with land and cities held in fief. Unlimited power on the large scale willingly supported itself by means of smaller unlimited powers; and whenever an ancient house already enjoyed hereditary power, there it was an established maxim not lightly to annihilate the authority of that family which an individual member of it might have involved in guilt. A case which probably now occurred at Halicarnassus, where in the time of Darius there reigned a king, unknown by name, the husband of the celebrated Artemisia, daughter of Lygdamis of Halicarnassus, but by her mother s side of Cretan origin. When her husband’s death left her a widow, with a son of tender age, whose name was Pisindelis, she had the spirit to carry on the government of Halicarnassus as queen; to that government the island of Cos, so productive of wine, was also subject, as well as the little islands of Calydna and Nysirus in the immediate neighbourhood, all inhabited by a Dorian population : indeed Cos was one of the Dorian five confederated cities. That beautiful, though at that time small kingdom (which gave birth to Herodotus and Hippocrates) acknowledged the supremacy of the great king, not merely by doing homage, but by supplying irregular troops to his army and by paying nevertheless a fixed tribute; this it paid to one of the tax-districts of the empire which produced yearly full 400 silver talents; but besides the whole population of Caria this district comprehended the Ionians, the Asiatic Magnesians, the Aeolians, Lycians, Milyans and Pamphylians. The Dorians were not so much as noticed separately, since they were half merged in the Carian name, and moreover their name hardly ever appears in the accounts of the combined movements of the Ionians, Aeolians and Hellespontians. Cnidus alone of the old Dorian name, stood on the continent; the time of the Rhodians was not yet come.
Section III. Circumstances of his life as a boy and a young man
The death of king Darius had just thrown the land of Persia into unaffected grief, and the successor to the throne, in conformity to old customs, had remitted all the arrears of taxes due to the former government, when, ten years after the unsuccessful insurrection of the Asiatic Greeks, Herodotus was born. He was of one of the noble families, his father was named Lyxes, his mother Dryo; he had a brother called Theodoras. It is very evident that this family had had some near relations in Ionia; since after the battle of Salamis when exhortations were addressed to the conquerors by some Ionian individuals to deliver their Asiatic brethren, the writer of the history speaks of seven men of Chios who on this point shewed especial zeal, but names only one person, and that with such peculiar emphasis, “among the number also was Herodotus, son of Basilides,” that we can hardly forbear to assume that “the matter here concerned a relative; (for what could be gained by the mention of a name otherwise unknown?) it was a family recollection which must not be lost.”
The boy Herodotus was four years old when the battles of Thermopylae and Salamis were fought. Queen Artemisia acted with good faith towards the Persians, to whose vast power she attached the interests of her house. She brought only five ships to the assistance of the great king, herself their voluntary leader; but no one conceived better notions for the general direction of the war, no one more refined stratagems on the decision of the moment, at least as we have them related with the partiality of a loyal subject; she stood high in Xerxes’ councils, who esteemed her wisdom, though he did not follow it, whilst the hatred of the Athenians towards her induced them to set a price upon her capture. But she escaped the dangers of that most destructive campaign, and returned before the king only because she was commissioned by him to convey some of his illegitimate children in safety to Ephesus, whence the great military road led to Susa. Herodotus makes no secret of his admiration of Artemisia, to whose active care many of her subjects, probably the very family of Herodotus, owed their preservation. When the Greeks in following up their victory admitted the Ionian islands into their league, and many Hellenic cities on the continent of Asia Minor had also seized the proffered hand to gain their beloved independence, the little Carian kingdom still adhered to Artemisia and her family, and deserted not her son Pisindelis even when Cimon, the Athenian, frightened the whole coast of the Persian empire by his exploits; so that Halicarnassus, while thus opposing itself to the tide of innovation, could scarcely make use of its excellent harbour (celebrated by Vitruvius) for the purposes of its customary commerce. Under this peaceful dependence on existing institutions the boy grew into a young man; for this must certainly have been the condition of his native city, even though direct testimony is wanting. How, moreover, could Lygdamis, grandson of Artemisia, have still succeeded to the supreme power, had the city hurried into the Athenian confederacy ? That act would have been, according to the political maxim of Athens, the end of the tyranny. But, whether it were that the force of example at last preponderated, or that, while Athens was now unrestrained mistress of the Grecian sea, the interests and prosperity of the cities on the coast could by no other means be secured; or whether Lygdamis (from whose angry suspicions Herodotus escaped to Samos, and in whose expulsion he afterwards took an active part) was become actually and in the bad sense of the word, a tyrant.—Halicarnassus also after a time entered into the Athenian league and payed its contribution, without however, withdrawing itself on that account from the payment of tribute to Persia.
In the meantime, during his abode in Samos, Herodotus is said to have adopted the Ionic dialect, and to have written his History in nine books. So says Suidas. But how could this have been? According to Lucian he wrote it in his fatherland; according to Pliny, in Magna Graecia, and at a much later date. At all events, he must have travelled first; he, who in every page of his book carries back the reader to his own personal enquiries.
CHAPTER THE SECOND
HERODOTUS IS SAID TO HAVE RECITED HIS HISTORY AT OLYMPIA.
Section I. Lucians “Herodotus”
Just as we are here fluctuating in doubt without any fixed point for our chronology, a most welcome aid appears in Lucian’s account of a recitation, by means of which Herodotus made known his just-completed work at the Olympic festival; in connection with this there comes to us from another source a story, that this recitation drew tears from Thucydides, then a youth, and may have acted as a spur to his emulation: thus the Olympiad in which the composition was finished, would seem, according to this, capable of being fixed with much probability. The account of the recitation is grounded on Lucians “Aetion or Herodotus” a short and agreeable work, which I will here insert according to my own translation. The purport of it is pretty nearly as follows:
“O that I were in a condition to resemble Herodotus if only in some measure! I by no means say, in all his gifts, for that would be an extravagant wish; but only in some one single point: as, for instance, the beauty of his language, or its harmony, or the natural and peculiar grace of the Ionic dialect, or his fulness of thought, or by whatever name those thousand beauties are called, which to the despair of his imitator are united in him. Meanwhile, at least, the way and method in which he proceeded with his writings, and contrived to make himself known at once over all parts of Greece, may perhaps serve me and thee and many others for imitation. For instance, he sailed from his native Caria direct for Greece, full of the thought, how he might best labours into notice and reputation without much expense of time and trouble. To travel about in order to recite at one time to the Athenians, at another to the Corinthians, or again to the inhabitants of Argos and Lacedemon, appeared to him a laborious and tedious process, involving no small loss of time. His determination consequently was to go to work without any such piece-meal efforts, and, instead of accumulating acquaintances one by one, he determined, if it were possible, to meet the assembled Greeks at one and the same time.
“The great Olympic festival was at hand, and Herodotus, being resolved on profiting by this most welcome occasion, looked with interest upon a crowded assembly, in which the most distinguished men from all places were already collected; and having crossed the threshold of the hinder-part of the temple, not as a spectator, nor yet as a combatant for the Olympic prize, he chanted his histories, and enraptured the assembly to such a degree, that his books (as they were then also exactly nine in number) were called Muses.
“From that moment he was known to everybody even better than the Olympic victors themselves. There was no one who had not heard his name; since some had themselves listened to him at Olympia, and the rest learnt it from those who returned home from the games. Wherever he showed himself, men pointed to him with the finger of admiration : ‘That,’ said they, ‘is the famous Herodotus, who has written in pure Ionic an account of our battles with the Persians, and sung the praises of our victories.’ The reward assigned to him for his History was of such a kind, that he in one single meeting obtained the unanimous applause of the assembled Grecian people, not merely the honour of the herald’s proclamation, but the universal praises of every state from which any one had attended the solemn festival.
“No sooner was it discovered what a direct path, as it were, to fame was here opened, than straightway Hippias, the sophist, who was a native of Elis, and Prodicus of Ceos, Anaximenes the Chian, Polus of Agrigentum, and a great number of others, began also to deliver regular discourses at these games, whereby they established their reputation in a short time. Yet why should I mention to thee the names of that old sophist and those writers of orations and histories, when we learn that even the painter Aetion, still very young, brought to Olympia his representation of Alexander’s marriage with Roxana, and such success followed the exhibition of his painting, that Proxenidas, the then president of the games, was induced by admiration of his art to make Aetion his son-in-law.
“Now someone may ask, ‘What magic was there then in this picture, that a judge at so solemn a contest should think of marrying his only daughter to Aetion, who was not even his own countryman?’ That painting is still extant in Italy, and I have seen it myself, so that I can give thee an account of it. A splendid bridal-chamber is there represented with the nuptial couch; Roxana is sitting thereon, looking on the ground abashed before Alexander who is standing by her. All around are laughing cupids, one of whom from behind raises the veil from her head, and shows Roxana to her betrothed; another, with all the dexterity of a page, is loosening the sandal from her foot, preparatory to her reclining. Another cupid holds fast by Alexander’s mantle, and with all his strength draws him to Roxana. The king himself presents a crown to the maiden. Hephaestion is standing by, as the escort and introducer of the bridegroom, a burning torch in his hand, and leaning upon a graceful boy; I suppose it is Hymenaeus, but. there is no name written by it. On the other side of the picture again young cupids are playing with Alexander’s weapons; two of them are carrying his lance, just like labourers who are panting under the weight of a huge beam. Two more are exerting themselves to draw about a third, who is lying in the shield, as if he also were a king, their little hands inserted through the straps of the shield; but one, who has crept into a coat-of-mail which has been thrown down, lies as it were in ambush ready to frighten the others, when they shall come near him as they move onwards. And yet this is not a mere representation of child's sports, nor has Aetion introduced them simply as superfluous ornaments: he hereby points out the warlike inclination of Alexander, and that his love for Roxana did not make him forget his weapons of war. But this painting must have had in it something peculiarly suited to a nuptialsolemnity, since it obtained for Aetion the daughter of Proxenidas in marriage. Assuredly he carried off his bride thereby, and, like the neighbouring group in the marriage of Alexander, a king acted as bridesman at his wedding, and paid him with a real marriage as the honorary price for that which he had painted so well.
“Now if Herodotus (that I may go back to him) turned to his own advantage the general meeting at the Olympic festival, and thus introduced to the admiration of the Greeks a writer, who could describe, as he has done, the Grecian victories; so dare I but, by Jupiter, who presides over friendship! Maythe memory of that great man preserve me from the imputation of madness, or the ambitious desire of comparing my productions with his! Thus far only do I conceive mysel to be in the same case with him; that ever since my arrival here in Macedonia, I have been meditating how I might attain the object which I have in view. My wish was to become generally known, and to exhibit my performance to as many Macedonians as possible. Now it seems hardly practicable at this season of the year to travel about to pay a personal visit to every city; if therefore I could hear of any such general assembly, and could there obtain a public hearing, it seemed to me to promise the gratification of my most earnest desire
“Since then ye are now assembled here, the élite of every city, the head and soul of all Macedonia; and since this most distinguished city receives you; no Pisa, by Jupiter! with its crowd, its tents, its booths, its suffocating heat, and its assembly;—no promiscuous multitude longing, for the most part, only for the sight of the athletae, and bestowing upon an Herodotus only a transient notice; no, indeed, but an assembly of orators, historians, and sophists, of the highest character. Surely it can hardly be asserted that the place where I am now addressing you is at all inferior to that Olympia. Certainly if you expected to find in me a Polydamas, a Glaucus, or a Milo, then must I have appeared to you an impertinent wretch. But if you entirely divest yourselves of any such thought, and will look at me nakedly as I am in myself, I may still perhaps in your judgment be spared the infliction of stripes, in consideration of the long course which I have run over; and with this I am contented.”
Section II. Preliminary examination of the alleged fact of this Recitation, according to time and place.
What we have just read is a short introductory speech with which Lucian, during his residence in one of the chief cities of Macedonia, sought to gain a favourable hearing for the witty writings which he was so desirous of submitting to an educated people. We readily give credit to his confidence in the favour which his abilities would obtain for him in all parts of the world; but the historical portion of this scene in the life of Herodotus must submit to be somewhat more accurately settled, before we can concede to it the vast weight and influence which has unconsciously accrued to it, in relation to the life of the historian and the estimation of his work.
On this point there is no doubt that Lucians’ Herodotus chose place and time and occasion very suitably, in order to become known all at once, to the whole of Greece. It was the largest general festival of the Greeks, attended by thousands of all tribes and races, and moreover not dedicated exclusively to sacrifices and games; here even political discussions found their accustomed place, and in important contracts of a public nature it was usual to stipulate that columns inscribed with the authentic terms of agreement, should especially be set up in Olympia. Moreover, Greece was witness to the contract; not merely a provincial meeting, but the Hellenic public, assembled under the sanction of religious peace. Therefore, when in the fourth summer of the Peloponnesian war the Mitylenaeans had separated from the Athenian confederacy, and now in their distress sent ambassadors to Sparta to ask for help, the Spartans bid them attend at Olympia where the Games were about to commence, in order that the other allies also might immediately hear thereof; the ambassadors accordingly, after the festival, made their communication in the temple of Olympian Jupiter. Again, in the winter of the tenth year of the war, when peace was concluded, it was agreed to erect columns on which the terms of peace were engraved, in the places where the Olympic, Pythian, and Isthmian games were held, and also at Athens, on the Acropolis, and at Sparta in the Amyclaeum. Still farther, when soon after an alliance, the forerunner of new commotions, was entered into between Athens and Argos, it was in like manner determined to set up, at the next Olympic games, and on the spot where they were held, a brasen column in their common names. How many other striking contrasts, rich in the suggestions of similar reflections, might not a walk on the Olympic plains in more peaceful days present! Now we learn still further from a dialogue of Plato, (if indeed it be genuine) viz. that entitled the “lesser Hippias,” that Hippias of Elis regularly attended at the Olympic festivals, in order to deliver a sophistic recitation, and to discourse scientifically on any subject that might be proposed. Lucian assures us that here (where the emperor Nero courted public applause) many sophists, with their followers, practised their calling and extended their acquaintance; why then might not a true and genuine instructor in the science and system of patriotism have presented himself here to gladden all Greece with the remembrance of exploits, in which many of his hearers themselves had borne an honourable share?
This would have taken place (as Larcher thinks) at the beginning of the 81st Olympiad, 456 BC; moreover it is certainly related by the biographers of Thucydides, that he, as a young person, under the superintendance of his father, was present at the recitation of Herodotus, and shed tears of emotion; and that Herodotus then said to Olorus, “Happy father! thy son is filled with the desire of knowledge!” Now a Thucydides of sixteen years old seems to suit the story pretty well; four years either more or less would not be quite so convenient; but at all events, (a point which Larcher does not notice) Herodotus proves to be suspiciously young. Could he, not yet thirty years old, have completed all his extensive travels, and have finished the laborious execution of his whole work, the tone of which, moreover, betrays the feeling of no young man? I would, besides, ask this short question: Is it probable he could then have spoken of Aeschylus, who at the time of the recitation had not been dead a year, as a poet of an earlier period? and yet he has done so. But it is thought fit arbitrarily to reduce the recitation to a portion only of the work; and, accordingly, he might possibly have finished off and recited merely the history of the war! Lucian, however, decidedly affirms the contrary. The whole work was there on the spot, and was read out, and the nine books themselves at that time received the names of the Muses; nor can we get so easily out of the enquiry by a little accommodation. In the minds of most men there is always a latent impression that history vanishes before many enquiries; but nevertheless where a contradiction exists in the testimonies, there we must still investigate, or cast all history clean out of our minds.
Section III. Arguments against the matter of fact of such a recitation.
However bold the young traveller may have been in claiming for his address the attention of the excitable assembly at Olympia, the difficulty lies in the very act of recitation; in the impossibility of reading aloud to a whole people, so as to be understood; in the improbability of his producing thereby clamorous approbation from the Greeks, nay of appearing even tolerable to a people, who oftentimes absented themselves even when Demosthenes spoke, if he had no topic of very extraordinary moment to interest them. I find no second instance of such public reading; but the author of the Travels of Anacharsis, in that part of his work where he paints, after his manner, the Olympic feast-days, seems ever to have the recitation of Herodotus floating in his mind. His statement is unsupported by quotations or authorities, where he says, “Nous suivions avec assiduitè les lectures qui se faisoient à Olympie... Les presidents des jeux y assistoient, quelquefois, et le peuple s’y portoit avec empressement.” No human voice is capable of making a recited work intelligible to many thousands; and for an historical work, and especially descriptions of countries and places, to be delivered in the sonorous chant of the herald, or even in the elevated tones of the orator—what an absurdity! Lucian had a feeling of this; therefore he describes his Herodotus as ascending to an elevated station and thence chanting the history of their victories. That is all very well, if we reflected no farther, and, deceived by the colouring of art, forgot, how far the narrative of Herodotus, with its mass of grave and weighty subjects, would be removed from all poetical ornament. The bare recitation, as it is given in Suidas, comprises all that is reconcileable with the case, all in short that was practicable; but still not in this place, nor for the object assigned.
There was yet another circumstance well known to Lucian, which must have made these historical recitations of several days’ continuance a wasteful expenditure of labour; he had often been at Olympia, had attended at the games, which were kept up long after his time, and knew perfectly well that the pleasure enjoyed there was always accompanied with a variety of drawbacks. It is related of a Chian that, being angry with his slave, he threatened to send him, not to the mill, but to Olympia as a punishment! Besides, the games were held in the middle of Summer (at the end of July); and in poor Greece no inventions of Roman; luxury sheltered the spectators from the burning sun or from torrents of rain. At the end even of Lucian’s Aetion there is a pointed allusion to the miseries there endured. It was not till the days of Lucian that Herodes Atticus, the benefactor of the Greeks (son of Julius Atticus, called the treasure-finder) carried an aqueduct to Olympia, in order that the spectators might no longer faint for thirst; against which innovation the crazy philosopher, Peregrinus Proteus, declaimed, arguing that it was a sign of pitiful effeminacy. Lucian was personally present at the singular theatrical exhibition which this Peregrinus made at Olympia; but on account of the pressing crowd of by-standers he was able to hear but little of the speeches which he delivered, before he threw himself on the burning pile (166 AD); and yet the games were already over, and so many persons had set out on their return that Lucian was not able to procure himself a conveyance.
Peregrinus must certainly have spoken in the open air where people could see what was going on; the Mitylenaeans, on the occasion above mentioned, spoke within the walls of the temple to those whom it concerned to hear them.
Now as Lucian (not without talent certainly) knew how to conduct his Macedonian hearers smoothly over these suspicious points in his anecdote by means of a cloudy indistinct representation, so he could easily overlook, on the other hand, another serious objection; namely, the unspeakable sense of weariness which a bare recitation, even for a few hours only, unrelieved by music or free declamation, must have occasioned to a people like that of ancient Greece. In Lucian’s time, such a race of people no longer existed, but the listening to public readings had become the social gratification of an educated public; his writings are full thereof, and owed their very origin to such a tendency in society. The recitation, at which the welcome sound of approbation was obtained, formed at that time the commencement of publication, even of works of history; almost every page of his treatise, entitled “How History ought to be written,” shows this.
Now since in considering the purely external conditions requisite for the notion of such a recitation,, so many causes of doubt accumulate on all sides, it can no longer be reckoned presumptuous curiosity if we finally enquire (in defiance certainly of the authority of men of learning without number and of so many centuries) whether the work of Herodotus, as a whole, is so composed as to excite any general enthusiasm. I unhesitatingly maintain the contrary; and every one would long ago have been of the same opinion, had not the pleasing little story of the recitation, of the applause, and especially of the tears of Thucydides blinded eyes that could see. Granting that the old Greeks in some strange fit of caprice might possibly have pardoned the presumptuous young man, Herodotus, his bad choice of time and place, and arranged themselves before him in the burning sunshine for a recitation which no one could hear correctly; what would in the first place have happened to Herodotus? a youth who had collected before him thousands of happy men on purpose to censure them, or (what is the same thing, to people who were well pleased with themselves) to tell them unpleasant truths! But the most serious evidence of the want of the historical character in Lucian's narrative, as well as the most honourable witness for the historian himself, is the fact that no book is less adapted for producing brilliant effect than that of Herodotus. By no means would they have shouted after him, “There goes the eloquent panegyrist of our exploits!” but, “Behold the man who enviously presents to the light the weak side of our most splendid actions, who exposes our nakedness, and knows how to attach some drawback or other to the character of our greatest men!” But before we come with more detailed and stronger proofs to that point, many others are waiting to be investigated; and, first of all, a word in vindication of Lucian himself.
Section IV. Rejection of the story of this Olympic Recitation with the consent of Lucian.
Lucian’s writings, if I may give my opinion of them, make altogether but little pretension to historical authority, and perform in that respect even less than they promise. That humourist has certainly left behind him evidence that he had thought seriously on the value of history, only it was not his aim himself to shine in that department. A licentious use of particular scenes of fable or of history served as a present object for the display of his talent in the witty exhibition of all kinds of negative enlightenment. In daily contact from his youth upwards with unedifying, nay, pernicious forms of religion, he had accustomed himself to the pardonable prejudice, that to laugh down the lumber and rubbish of the old faith would be a meritorious employment for a philosopher, overlooking the hollow state to which a naked unbelief brings men’s minds. There is no room for question that he, adhering to that hastily-conceived notion, has ridiculed without discrimination what was good as well as what was evil; but it may well be made a question, whether Peregrinus were the complete fool, and at the same time the wicked wretch, which Lucian pronounces him to have been’. He who reduces the half-obliterated but venerable form of Pythagoras to that of a juggler, cannot well lay claim to any fine sense of discrimination respecting the uncommon phenomena which then presented themselves. Lucian was so invariably unfavourable to the Christians, in whose modest circle exalted notions and strong convictions flourished, and he knew so little of the real character and history of that noble society, that he takes their first lawgiver and him that was crucified for two distinct persons. That was only a mistake; but it is a fact by no means generally known, that history served him solely as a convenient and agreeable clothing wherewith to give an air of verity to innumerable negligences, or even intentional deviations from facts; so little obligation or restraint did he impose upon himself in this respect. This is not naturally the place for speaking of the wit’s anachronisms;—as, for instance, when his gods of the times of the Titans refer to passages of Hesiod; but can we really believe that “the Eulogium upon Demosthenes” represents the genuine death-scene of that great man? And yet the author asserts quite seriously, that he borrowed the whole of the dialogue between Antipater and Archias (which contains the narrative) verbatim from Memoirs, of the royal house of Macedonia; and a commentator from his hiding-place actually calls out to us, “Here begins an ancient document, well worth reading; the rest is of no great value.” Shall we, on the testimony of the treatise upon Calumny, consider Aristides as a calumniator of Themistocles, and assume that Lucian must have had different sources of information from those which Plutarch possessed? the very same probably from whence Wieland at a later period derived his Agathon and Aristippus! Does anyone judge of the character of Aristotle from Lucians view of it, and call him the vilest of flatterers and money-seekers, and the corruptor of his illustrious pupil? We find Hannibal, because it is convenient for a dialogue, represented as a man who understood nothing of Greek literature, though nevertheless even the name of his master in the Greek language is known from Nepos, and the Greek sciences were diligently cultivated at Carthage. In his Toxaris are exhibited examples of friendship among the Scythians, which in the degree in which they are given, are appropriate at no date, and least of all in the time of Lucian, in which however they are placed; and nevertheless their truth is warranted by an oath. So also Lucian hesitated not to describe his “Menippus flying up into heaven” (Icaro-Menippus), as looking down upon the things of earth, and seeing transactions which are to be taken as cotemporaneous, but were really separated from each other by no less a space of time than a whole generation; as is the case respecting Alexander of Pherae, and the immediate successors of Alexander the Great. How much better informed must his contemporaries have been! Do we wish for still more palpable errors to prove his historical carelessness, we may learn from him that besides the Saturnalia the Panathenaic festival was also celebrated at Rome! He makes the elder Pherecydes to be a native of Syria instead of the island of Syra; makes him his countryman, and, by a twofold error, he still farther takes this native of Syra for the well-known historian, as well as the Syrian Pherecydes for the philosopher of that name. In his eulogistic description of a magnificent house, the famous golden plane-tree of the kings of Persia is estimated as “a paltry work of art, yet certainly good enough for such bad judges as the Arsacidae” We have here unexpectedly, as Gesner has already observed, an Arsacides in the person of Darius, son of Hystaspes! since it was he who first received this tree as a present from the wealthy Pythius.
To build upon Lucian then on historical matters is altogether to misunderstand his character. All that appearance of regard for matters of fact, which has so much perplexed men’s judgmen upon Herodotus and his work, was assumed by him for mere amusement. He was so far acquainted with facts as to be able to lay a foundation which would prevent the fear of detection, and conceal the improbabilities which accompanied them; indeed he has known only too well, how to effect this to the disparagement of our better judgment. However, in that little piece already mentioned, he shows no hesitation to suffer even Herodotus himself to enter the building. Elsewhere he has called him a liar, here that is forgotten; he summons him hither as a wise man from Halicarnassus, and makes him give his answer as a witness “after his fashion, in the Ionic dialect!” But even the course of thought, the dressing up of which led to the story of the Olympic recitation (viz. “the advantage of becoming known to a great many men all at once”), occurred to him only on a particular occasion, because, forsooth, it would be no small piece of politeness, to compare, as he did at the outset, the numerous assembly in a Macedonian city to the celebrated meeting at Olympia, and, at the end of his speech, even to place it above it. We possess another little work of his, which was likewise intended to obtain a favourable reception for his address, but in which the circumstances occasioned him to pursue a quite opposite course. It is his Harmonides, Under this name (without doubt a fictitious one) he introduces a flute-player, who at his first public appearance expired in the act of playing; and he shows by this example how hazardous a thing it is to wish to shine before a large assemblage. “Now as no one theatre,” he says, “can be found large enough for all the Greeks to hear you at the same time, what you seek is found here!”, that is, the author exclusively recommends the favour and patronage of someone distinguished individual, whose approbation being given to his performance would settle the question of his reputation for him better than the favour of the multitude: he does not however omit to remark how well he had succeeded in gaining that favour in other countries. But, I believe, I may go beyond mere probabilities, and decidedly pronounce my opinion, that the birthplace of this Olympic recitation is to be sought for only in Lucian’s brains. Plutarch’s book, “on the malignant spirit of Herodotus”, is a little older than Lucian, yet probably cotemporaneous with his youth. He proceeds upon a view quite incompatible with that of Lucian. The historian appears there in an odious light, as one who has gladly tacked on some drawback to every meritorious action, and, from vulgar, selfish motives, calumniously injured in their reputation almost every Grecian state, with perhaps the single exception of the Athenians, Now this representation attacks most unjustly a most valuable disposition of mind; since it is actually true of Herodotus (which Lucian requires of an historian), that, like the Jupiter of Homer, “he looks on the land of the horse-breeding Thracians and of the Mysians with an impartial eye.”
It would seem then to be mere discontentedness, by no means in harmony with that grateful recognition which is the prevailing tone of feeling among the ancients towards “the father of history.” Without expressing any censure upon his contemporaries, but only pointing to the fate that must await a man like him, an ancient epitaph on Herodotus tells us that he had withdrawn himself from his Doric fatherland to Thurium, in order to escape from insatiable Momus, (i.e. the god of sarcastic censure”). But Plutarch undertakes to find some real faults in Herodotus: “This man,” he says, “of whom some people say that Greece is ennobled by him, received ten talents as a reward for his flattery of the Athenians, recited to them from his history; for Diyllus, the Athenian, no despicable historian, mentions this reward, and moreover, that a citizen named Anytus made the proposal for it at Athens.” This Diyllus composed (according to all appearances, about the middle of the third century before the birth of Christ) his work of general history in twenty-six books; from Philomelus, the plunderer of the temple of Delphi to the death of Agathocles, the tyrant of Syracus. But however Plutarch may have acted respecting the account he has given of the Athenian recitation (a story which Eusebius has also adopted), he could not, without being guilty of a procedure as dishonest as it would be clumsy, have left it unnoticed, “that nevertheless the whole of Greece at Olympia had declared the impartiality of Herodotus,” if he had been at all aware of the fact itself; at all events he must have tried to weaken this objection which every one of his readers would have brought against him. We must make the same remark upon an anecdote of a like kind, for which Plutarch quotes as his authority a Boeotian, named Aristophanes; viz. that the Thebans had refused to give money to Herodotus, and had even forbidden him all intercourse with their young men; on which account he was naturally enough induced to revenge himself on Thebes in his history. In reference thereto Dio Chrysostom, cotemporary with Plutarch, also congratulates the Corinthians on their having altogether refused to pay the historian, in order that he might make honourable mention of them in the accounts of the Persian war; the consequence, of course, being that he altered his account of the battle of Salamis and the conduct of Adimantus, very greatly to their disadvantage. We see in all this the nonsense which offended vanity suggests: (for who, that has ever cast only a single look at the work could take it for an thing else ?) we see that a little before Lucian's time no one knew anything of the triumph of Herodotus at Olympia; that still farther the fiction with which Lucian entertained his Macedonian audience, who had every reason for thinking well of Herodotus, was opposed to the views previously and generally entertained throughout Greece. And this is just what might be expected from the nature of the case. Flattery is ever in possession of the oldest throne in the world, though precisely the most illegitimate. It is a thing impossible of itself, that he who would honour truth should also please the generality of men. But in this case of all others it was most impracticable. Has it not been made matter of accusation against our own honest Danckwehrt, that by his topographical writings he has pointed out to the enemy as it were a bridge and pathway into our country? But let us rather suppose a case which approaches nearer to that of Herodotus! Let anyone conceive the idea of producing a history of Germany's last war of liberation before an assembly of the most distinguished individuals of our country from the whole number of our independent states, and we could not conceal from ourselves the fact that in proportion as the historian painted the narrative with the powerful and impressive colours of truth, those who had failed in their duty to their country would find something wanting in his apology for them; those who had been lukewarm would be dissatisfied with their amount of praise; and probably the mixture of human weaknesses would neither permit them themselves to tolerate the work of genuine and splendid merit, nor would even their next descendants and immediate connexions willingly consent to listen to it. Happy would it be, if he who worthily aspires to this exalted object, could gain for himself the esteem of the truly noble as a compensation for the attacks he must receive from the sensitive passions of others! Yea, should success (God grant the fulfilment of our hopes!) accompany the liberation of Greece, the man may not be far distant who shall honestly and boldly relate the extraordinary contest in a cotemporaneous history, which while it can do justice to those who thus arise out of death, is alone fully worthy of the name of history. But even should any one succeed in reviving an Olympia for the Hellenic states, he must not on that account reckon on earning as his reward the gratitude of the whole Greek nation
Thus we have weighed the question well on all sides, and as I think, have settled it. Criticism in its real essence does not consist in any out-of-the-way tricks of subtle refinement; it is the procedure of a sound mind (proved to be so in the common business of life) which on a point which it is seeking to solve, is not quick to decide, but having once arrived at a decision through preponderating arguments, suffers not itself to be pulled to and fro by the tittle-tattle of useless evidence, nor wastes its time in the enquiry, whether yes and no, right and wrong may not be made, by a darkening of the vision, to appear of equal weight Whoever knows any thing of every-day life, or of the newspapers only, is aware that from every important matter of fact there grow out a number of false excrescences, of intentional and unintentional misrepresentations, which can seldom be all traced to their source, but are all equally and entirely indifferent to the critic of mature judgment. By the accommodating and conciliatory critic, on the contrary, every piece of additional information will be considered as clear gain to his literary wealth; and should there be occasion to notice an accusation on account of some overpowering suspicion, he believes ho must have recourse to everything, conceivable or inconceivable, for his defence. In this way of proceeding, which may properly be called the art of frittering away the truth, a man can never be quite assured that he has done enough. Thus on our present subject this inventive talent is exercised, by shewing how Herodotus may still have recited at Olympia, but perhaps in a lecture-room, nobody knows when, and only a select portion of his work! The abettors of such a process do not see, how much greater violence is applied to Lucian by thus distorting his words, than by pronouncing the whole story to be a pure invention. However, a large portion of the hopes that rest upon that ancient writer, (if this chapter should leave any of them still remaining) will fall to the ground in the course of the following chapters
We are justified, according to our view of the subject, in considering Lucian’s narrative as already annihilated; and if there arise hereafter a question about the place where Herodotus wrote, it remains for us only to decide between Samos and Thurium. We shall do well to postpone the decision of the enquiry into the origin of the division of his work into books. But it is a most important point, that Herodotus now stands perfectly unshackled as to the time when he wrote; he is no longer required to have completed his work before he (444 BC) went into Magna Graecia. The case itself conducts us thus far on our way to decide the question, When did Herodotus write? And this we proceed to do, solely by means of an examination of the work itself.
CHAPTER THE THIRD
WHEN AND WHERE DID HERODOTUS WRITE
Section I. A Chronological Table out of Herodotus suited to furnish an answer to these questions.
Here follows, as a help in the investigation, a collation of facts incidentally mentioned by Herodotus, all of which were subsequent to the date at which he breaks off his narrative. Now this ends with the return of the victorious Grecian fleet from the coast of Asia, when the Athenians had at last conquered Sestus, 479 BC and in the third year of the 75th Olympiad.
Pausanias conceives the idea of marrying a Persian princess.
The defeat of the people of Tarentum and Rhegium by the Iapygian Messapians, according to Diodorus, took place in the sixth year after the battle of Salamis, (i.e. when Herodotus was ten years old).
Since Herodotus mentions this as the greatest slaughter that ever befell the Greeks, this passage was probably written before the discomfiture of the Athenians in Sicily, (which took place 413 BC), An observation this not so irrelevant and superfluous as at first it may appear.
The valiant behaviour of Boges, the Persian commander, when besieged by Cimon at Eion : 470
Leotychides, king of Sparta, conqueror at Mycale, deposed on account of his taking bribes, dies in banishment, not earlier than : 467
Mention of the so-called third Messenian war, which lasted from : 465
Death of Xerxes. Artaxerxes succeeds after : 465
War of Inaros in Egypt after : 462
Execution of Inaros, but his son permitted to retain the kingdom of Libya : 457
Battle of Tanagra : 456
Aeschylus mentioned as no longer living. He died in : 457
Unsuccessful contest of the Athenians with the Edonians for the gold-mines : 453
Herodotus, being forty years old, takes up his residence in Magna Graecia : 444
The prophecy of Hippias, “that the Corinthians would one day repent of having taken part with Athens against him”, was probably in the mind of Herodotus (who attributed to Hippias great knowledge of the future) in relation to the events which took place before the Peloponnesian war, that is in : 433 and 434
Beginning of the Peloponnesian war, when Herodotus was fifty-three years old : 431
Sitalces, king of the Odrysians, is mentioned as if he were a man universally known. This indeed he became, when, after the outbreak of the Peloponnesian war, he joined in alliance with Athens : 431
The surprise of Plataea by the Thebans, through which the Peloponnesian war began before it had been yet declared. The mentioning of this transaction by Herodotus appeared indeed remarkable to Marcellinus, the biographer of Thucydides : 431
The Athenians during the Peloponnesian war, take prisoners and put to death the Spartan ambassadors who were on their road to their appointed destination, Persia. This, according to Thucydides, took place at the end of the second summer of the war : 430
Mention of a horrid deed of Amestris, wife of Xerxes, which took place in her old age, when she was queen-mother; a deed which probably did not occur till the time of the Peloponnesian war; since, to decide according to Ctesias, Amestris cannot have died long before the death of Artaxerxes Longimanus, whom she governed as she pleased; and so not long before : 425
Callias, son of Hipponicus, is sent with other Athenians to treat of peace with Artaxerxes, most probably in the first year of the Peloponnesian war, necessarily before the death of Artaxerxes, which ensued in the year : 425
Zopyrus the Persian, son of Megabyzus, takes refuge with the Athenians, and perishes in an attempt made by them to get possession of Caunus. Everything tends to show that this must have happened shortly before the death of Artaxerxes, which is related immediately thereon; and therefore about 425
On the occasion of the misfortune of an ominous earthquake at Delos, in the time of Darius, son of Hystaspes, Herodotus remarks, that in the three generations including the reigns of Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes, Greece had suffered more of misfortune than in the twenty generations preceding Darius. Herodotus here speaks of the reign of Artaxerxes as past; he therefore wrote this after : 425
These three reigns (extending from 522 to 425 BC) together make up, almost completely, a hundred years, which is the length of three Herodotean generations. That Herodotus among these “accumulated misfortunes” included also the breaking out of the Peloponnesian war, farther follows from his accompanying remark, that these troubles originated only in part from the Persians, but in part also from the chief states of Greece itself, who entered into contests with each other for the mastery.
Decelea, on account of an ancient service done to Sparta, is spared by the Spartans during their devastation of Attica; whereby probably is meant a well-known occurrence in the year : 413
The Deceleans, as Herodotus relates, had formerly shewn to the Tyndaridae, the brothers of Helen, the place where Theseus, after carrying her off, had deposited her; they in consequence have enjoyed, he says, down to the present time, great privileges in Sparta; and the Spartans spared Decelea when they ravaged the rest of Attica, in the war “which took place between the Athenians and the Peloponnesians many years after the transactions just related”—that is, those connected with the battle of Plataea. But in the first place, this meritorious service of the Deceleans admits of a doubt, and in the next also the fact of their being spared in the Peloponnesian war. Plutarch at least, in his Theseus, names a certain Academus as the individual who betrayed the residence of Helen, and adds thereto, with a view of doing him honour on that account, that the Spartans in their frequent incursions into Attica, had always spared that which was called from him the Academy. I think, however, that it was from a regard to their own safety that they did not venture so near to the fortified outposts of Athens, from which the gardens of the Academy were only four miles off. Certainly when they for the last time formed the siege of Athens, their land forces (while Lysander blockaded the haven), were encamped nowhere else but in the Academy. Thus it is that a kind destiny sometimes shows us how much dependence may be placed upon traditionary reports in matters of history. The case turns out just the same as to the Deceleans. Thucydides not only says not a word of the favourable exception which was made in their case by the plundering parties, but rather mentions expressly on the first incursion under Archidamus the ravaging of the districts between the mountain chains of Parnes and Brylessus, and exactly in that direction lay Decelea
But in the nineteenth summer of the Peloponnesian war (413 BC) when Sparta, provoked by the Sicilian expedition and the ravaging of her own shores, determined to direct her attacks immediately upon Attica, Agis, the Spartan king, having invaded Attica, laid waste first of all the level country, and then established himself in Decelea, with the view of forming, after the counsel of Alcibiades, a stronghold of the place, just as the Athenians had at an earlier date established one in the Spartan territory at Pylus. This circumstance, so influential upon the sequel of the war, seized upon by rumour and extending to Magna Graecia, might easily assume such a form, that the conduct of the Spartan appeared to be an intended sparing of the Deceleans; and just as easily was a motive found for it in the frivolous tradition of the recovery of Helen from Attica by the twin Tyndaridae, through information given to them either by Decelus, the founder of the city, or the Deceleans themselves. For Herodotus confesses that he does not know by which of the two parties the merit of this fabulous service was earned.
Amyrtaeus, king of Egypt dies; notwithstanding he had excited an insurrection against the Persians, his son Pausiris receives his father’s kingdom from the Great King. Amyrtaeus according to Eusebius died 408 BC.
When Darius Nothus, king of Persia, (after 423 BC) was in the eleventh year of his reign, Amyrtaeus, who already in earlier days had been an ally of the Libyan Inaros, renewed his attempt to make himself master of Egypt, and maintained himself for six years, until his death. Syncellus certainly places his insurrection as early as the second year of Darius Nothus, and makes him reign only six years, so that his death would be in 416 BC.
But nevertheless it is probable that Egypt did not become tranquil till the year 408, when, after the death of Amyrtaeus, Pausiris was allowed to govern under the Persian protection; because in that same year occurs another display of vigour on the part of the Great King, whereby Media, which had likewise been in a state of rebellion, was again subjugated.
Wesseling is opposed both to Eusebius and Syncellus, and will not allow that anything can be met with in Herodotus belonging to so late a reign as that of Darius Nothus; but he has entirely overlooked the passage, which is here subjoined, and which decides the whole question
“The Medes, whom Cyrus made subject to the Persians, subsequently engaged in a rebellion, and withdrew themselves from allegiance to Darius, but were conquered and again brought into subjection.”—This Darius was Darius Nothus, and this resubjugation occurred, according to Xenophon, in the four-and-twentieth year of the Peloponnesian war: that is, in 408 BC.
When he wrote this passage of his first book Herodotus was at least seventy-seven years old, and perhaps still older; for it probably took a considerable time for information of these transactions to reach the people of Thurium. So little did the saying of a cotemporary poet apply to him :
Prolong'd old age all human ills contains,
Vain schemes, unfruitful labours, addled brains,
Section II. The result is, that Herodotus wrote his history in Italy, and at an advanced age
In the year 444 BC Herodotus joined himself to the emigrants who sailed from Greece to Italy to found a colony at Thurium. All the accounts agree in this. No one mentions, what might else he conceived to have happened, that he subsequently joined the colony already settled there; no one hints that he ever again returned to his native Greece; (he died at Thurium), nor does any one say that he published two editions of his work, one at an earlier date, another with alterations and additions in extreme old age. We see rather before us a work evidently broken off in the midst of its compilation, from the pressure of external circumstances; in addition to more positive proofs, we find also a passage where the historian promises a narrative which he does not make good in the subsequent part of his history. Herodotus therefore during his residence at Thurium, first worked up his collected materials into the book which we now possess, and, as our chronological table shows, did not put the finishing stroke to it before he was considerably more than seventy years of age. With this declaration of the work itself, the most unobjectionable testimonies agree; but we have already given sufficient to invalidate entirely the fiction of Lucian. According to the elder Pliny, Herodotus wrote at Thurium in Italy; on this very account (as has often happened), the place of his birth was passed over, and he was generally called “ the Thurian.” Strabo attests the fact that it was the general custom so to denominate him, a practice which certainly would not have existed had he already written in Halicarnassus, or anywhere else in Greece proper. The emperor Julian so calls him; and the already quoted work of Plutarch, “On the Malignity of Herodotus,” speaks of him as a man who is accounted by others a Thuria, but who himself claims to be a Halicarnassian. This last expression can refer only to the opening words with which the work of Herodotus sets forth, what was the historical design of “Herodotus the Halicarnassian” But in an incidental quotation of this very passage, Aristotle read “the Thurian,” and not, as in our manuscripts and editions, “the Halicarnassian”; and we find decidedly, that Plutarch was aware of both readings; so that it is, at all events, a matter of uncertainty which of them was the original one
To these arguments, perhaps, some of another kind might still be added, which, in connexion with the others, will not be rejected as untenable. Just as it has been attempted to shew from internal evidence that Homer sang his poems on the shores of Asia Minor, and not in Greece proper, so there certainly are passages in Herodotus, which by trifling peculiarities of representation or expression, point to one who was writing in the south of Italy. An English scholar has already drawn attention to one instance. Herodotus describes the Crimea as a large angle standing out from the continent of Scythia, and compares its figure with the southern point of Attica; but to assist the reader, who had not sailed round that promontory, he suggests the peninsula of Iapygium, which lay directly north-east, before the eyes of the inhabitants of Thurium, and which he must pass by every time he would sail to Greece. Herodotus therefore in this passage had regard, first to the general community of the Greeks (because to most of them, as living in Greece proper, the coast of Attica was known), and in the next place, to his then immediate neighbourhood. In the 4th book, 15th chap, he speaks of Metapontum just as one who, on account of the nearness of his place of residence, (it was but a good day’s journey from Thurium) would be able to specify how the statue of a certain hero was even now standing in the market-place there, with its exact position and local ornaments; on other occasions, when he speaks merely as one who had formerly been at a place, his favourite phrase is “to my time”. The whole history of the physician Democedes, of Crotona, in the third book, and of the progress of his medical career (in which the important amount of his profits is worth observing in chap. 131), seems to have fallen in the way of Herodotus for the first time, during his residence in Magna Graecia, indeed he would hardly have met with it anywhere else; see particularly the 137th and 138th chaps, of this third book, from which one cannot but assume, that though he may have comprehended Italy in the plan of his early travels, yet, for all that, he was still insufficiently informed about Italy. Probably Democedes glorified himself a little too much, when he claimed to have first directed the thoughts of Darius to the acquisition of Greece, a suggestion too which could gain him but little honour. Akin to this is the passage in v. 44 and 45, relating to a disputed circumstance in the destruction of Sybaris by the Crotonians, where however one can by no means pass unobserved the obscurity which pervades the account of so recent a transaction; it occurred about 510 BC. The descendants of the destroyers told the story one way; those of the unhappy Sybarites another, who now dwelt partly in the daughter-cities of Laiis and Scidrus, and partly as fellow-townsmen of Herodotus, since the foundation by the fountain of Thuria had sprung up near the ruins of the destroyed city. Herodotus leaves the disputed point undecided; had he done otherwise he must have adjudged the case against the Sybarites, who had only traditionary stories in favour of their view, while on the contrary the Crotonians appealed to an historical voucher which he himself must have acknowledged as such. He adds at the conclusion of the narrative, (though here it does not help us as to the main question), “still in my time the family of Callias possessed certain select portions of the lands of Crotona, which had been given to them.” Descendants generally mean, not the second generation, but the third, the grand-children. It is therefore probable that Herodotus is here speaking as a Thurian, and at a later date. His accurate knowledge of the Crotonian district, and the whole manner in which he handles the question, lead also to this inference. We will refer to only one more passage in conclusion. When Clisthenes, king of Sicyon, was anxious to select the most distinguished individual for his son-in-law, he caused it to be announced by the herald's voice at the Olympic games, that any one who considered himself worthy of being a candidate might come to Sicyon within sixty days. Of all those who now appeared there from all the countries of Greece, for the purpose of courting so high a prize, Herodotus names first him who came out of Italy, and moreover from Sybaris. Thus happily do his distinctive peculiarities of manner and expression harmonize with the never-to-be-mistaken fundamental tone of the whole performance, that is, the quiet talkativeness of a highly cultivated, tolerant, intelligent old man. Even those persons have felt and praised this peculiarity in him as a writer, who with the same pen describe him as a youthful author.
Since the unaided work of Herodotus has thus, like an accurate road-index, verified itself amidst discordant pros and cons, let us now consider, under the same guidance, the laborious preparations for the same, which may well have occupied twenty years of his life, that is from twenty to forty years of age; from 464 to 444 BC.
CHAPTER THE FOURTH.
HERODOTUS AS A TRAVELLER
Section I. About what time he travelled.
What greater joy, than through the veil of sleep,
Firm on the solid earth, and safely hous’d,
To hear the pattering rain-drops fall without?—
Thus sang and thought the poet Sophocles; and, faithful to his own home and country, the seat of science, he resisted the alluring invitation to a glittering palace. For
Whoe’er has pass’d within the tyrant’s gates,
Becomes his slave, however free he came.—
This retiring disposition however was not suited to the friend of history, whose object was to gain a knowledge of the world, and especially of the acts of men. He resolved therefore on mixing with society, and was prepared in consequence to sacrifice to his object much personal enjoyment and many advantages peculiar to more peaceful studies. That part of the earth which spreads around the Mediterranean Sea, and which in a great measure lay unexplored, must be travelled through, in order to find in the best-informed of its inhabitants the sources of an animated history. The work of Herodotus, however, is no mere book of travels, but the ripened fruit of most important and perilous journeys by sea and land. Of all the Greeks of that time he and Democritus probably pursued their travels to the greatest extent. Had the active exertions of Herodotus in exploring the world been known to the happy-tempered philosopher (exertions so well vouched for by his book), he would probably have suppressed his declaration, “Of all my cotemporaries I have seen the greatest number of countries, and visited the greatest variety of civilized men.” Had the history of Herodotus appeared as early is commonly presumed to have been the case, Democritus could not but have known the extent of his travels.
Of his personal adventures as a traveller Herodotus says not a word, and his presence at this or that place is alluded to quite incidentally and by way of testimony; so that it is now impossible, on that account, to follow the traces of his movements. What Larcher has said of their date and number, and of the order in which he visited the respective countries, is a romance, but would be taken for genuine history if we had found it coloured by the fine touches of Lucian or introduced by Suidas among his clumsy extracts, under the article “Herodotus”
Thus much is clear; at the time when Artaxerxes, son of Xerxes, had not been long on the throne of Asia, and notwithstanding the very altered condition of Grecian affairs, still demanded the old rate of tribute from the Greeks of Asia Minor, and therefore of Halicarnassus, (he ventured not to demand a larger tribute for fear of the Athenians)—at this time Herodotus undertook travels for the accomplishment of which even the most rapid-moving Englishman would require a number of years. He undertook them in the full strength of body and mind, being completely educated; he therefore could hardly have been at Tyre so early as the twenty-fourth year of his age, 460 BC, which place, as he shows incidentally, he visited among the latest, but to which the unfortunate and ever-recurring Olympic recitation brings him so prematurely. If we invest him while yet so young with the office and honours of historiographer to Greece, he must indeed have finished his educational studies very early! If we release him from this idle fancy, there then remains abundant time for his travels, even to his fortieth year. And who says that he continued quietly at Thurium after his settling there ? Besides the cities in the immediate neighbourhood, such as Metapontum and Crotona, he also investigated everything of any consequence in Sicily. We cannot however place implicit confidence in him on this point, since he perseveres, almost incomprehensibly, in his preconceived mistake, viz. that Sardinia is the largest island in the world.
Section II. His travels in Greece Proper.
First then, as a matter of course, he knew most accurately the different districts of his native land, Doris, Ionia, Aeolis; he writes of their charming climate with fond affection, which imparted a brightness and elasticity to his mind; how readily his memory turned thither from his later home at Thurium is shown by his comparison of some small portions of the sea-coast about Ilion, and in Ionia, with the larger localities of Egypt. Besides this, individual objects of remark are constantly occurring, especially about Samos; and one might thereby support the opinion to which Suidas leads us, of his longer residence in that island. But in European Greece, as his writings everywhere shew, there was no province, probably no place of consequence, which he did not examine with his own eyes. In most of them he must have sojourned a long while, especially at the oracle-stations, which supplied a stimulus to every desire for information. Thus he consulted the oracle in the oak-forests of Dodona, and made the treasure of the temple of Delphi a subject of historical enquiry. He inspected there with particular attention the dedicated offerings of the old Lydian king, and learnt from the Delphians many particulars concerning them. He also traced out similar consecrated gifts at Thebes.
In Athens, with the extent of which city he compared Ecbatana, he doubtless continued a considerable time, and learnt to understand and admire that bold republic; there too, if anywhere, was the place where he could obtain accurate information concerning the transactions of the Persian war. Moreover, he was in a certain sense a confederate member of the Athenian state; Halicarnassus belonged to that great confederacy, which however, curbed as it was under the hand of Pericles, hardly deserved that name. Athens was, in all cases that arose, his supreme court of judicature, and without doubt he had informed himself well of her then existing constitution. Nevertheless, it is by no means to be allowed that he has successfully embodied the internal structure of the ancient history of Athens in his attempt to develope it. In general he devotes himself to arrange in complete connexion those enquiries only for which he has occasion; and we do Herodotus either too much, or too little honour, if we always measure his credibility by the same scale. About cotemporaneous affairs, or transactions near his own time, we fail not to find in him, in the fullest sense of the term, the historian; but when former times are concerned, he then passes to the lower level of the traveller. As such he directs indeed his enquiry to the right point in every generation, and avoids gross errors in particulars (perhaps through his good sense, and tact in drawing comparisons), but on the whole he cannot help adopting the generally received view; and this is everywhere regulated by predilection and habit. Herodotus considered it his most important and meritorious duty to report faithfully what he heard, in all places, of things worthy of notice and suitable to his main object; nor can any one require a greater acquisition of historical materials even from the best informed writer of his travels, in the entire absence of written sources of knowledge; since more is absolutely not to be accomplished by individual labour. That the detached representations of Thucydides oftentimes highly surpass those of Herodotus in precision (as is actually the case), proves, by itself, not so much the superior historical genius of the former, as the greater facility of working up a more confined subject, and moreover one strictly limited to his own native country. That which formed his main object was only one out of many to Herodotus. When, therefore, Herodotus speaks of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, and yet still more of the Alcmaeonidae, as of genuine friends of liberty who had defended their native city from the tyranny of the Pisistratidae, and fey this reason exonerates the Alcmaeonidae from the suspicion of a secret understanding with the Persians, we shall not hesitate a moment to give our assent to Thucydides, who exhibits to us these transactions in a light altogether different. Herodotus followed the general opinion which pursued Pisistratus with hatred, because, forsooth, he had presumed to exercise dominion over the Athenians; the old hereditary exercise of authority had become unintelligible in a republican state, and the descendants of the great families would be looked upon rather as cruel tyrants than the offspring of the ancient rulers of the people. In the same manner, when he speaks of 30,000 Athenian citizens (which number is at least too great by one third), the fault is not so much his as of the sources to which he confined his enquiries.
He also travelled in the Peloponnesus, and without doubt visited Corinth, with whose history he has made himself particularly conversant; he entered the Lacedaemonian territory, and probably obtained there a list of the names of all the three hundred Spartans who died an immortal death at Thermpylae; he was also on the western coast, and visited not only the peaceful neighbourhood of Olympia, but likewise the cities of Triphylia, six in number, built by the ancient Minyae, but in great measure lying in ruins; to which condition they had recently been reduced by the conquering hand of the Eleans, a people by no means accustomed to live in the enjoyment of God’s blessed peace. That he also travelled in Northern Greece, is attested first by the battlefields, described as they evidently are from ocular observation, both that of Thermopylae and that of Plataea; in the next, by his account of the gorge or defile through which the Peneus flows between Ossa and Pelion. He was also in the peninsula of Mount Athos, where he saw the city of Creston inhabited by Pelasgians, the people of which were understood by none of their neighbours, but spoke a language like that of two Pelasgian cities upon the Hellespont. But what need of many words ? As we read how with detailed circumstantial descriptions, he makes the army of Xerxes advance from place to place along the inner edge of Greece, we cannot for a moment doubt his personal acquaintance with the whole extent of the coast of the Aegean sea. He extended his travels to the islands also, and not merely those in his own neighbourhood, as Lesbos and Samos; he must have been in Salamis; he knows how to speak of the mines of Thasos, which he had himself inspected, and the most important of which, as well as the temple of Hercules there, he attributes to the Phoenicians. On his visit to the islands on the west side of Greece, Zacynthus supplies him with an occasion for astonishment in the phenomenon of pitch being obtained by plunging myrtle-branches into a pond; and he gravely mentions, as an undeniable fact, that if at any time anything fell into this pond, it was carried away underground and made its appearance again in the sea. I cannot see the name of this island, without thinking of my noble friend Coes, who, full of eager curiosity, and veracious as Herodotus himself after many wanderings retired there to the shelter of the grave in order to get rid of that which galls us all so much.
Section III. Extensive Travels out of Greece.
With respect now to other lands and nations, we will take first in order those which were related to Greece; he passed through the Hellespont and the Propontis, where he halted in the island of Proconnesus, and also visited Cyzicus on the Asiatic shore; so also the Bosphorus; he calculated this extent of water on a rough average in length and breadth; and when he was now arrived in the Euxine Sea, he took the mean proportion of that vast body of water in both directions, reckoned the voyage by the number of days and nights, distinguishing their proportion to each other, whereby he intended to indicate its average length and breadth; in which however the result is certainly about double the actual amount. We may, however, allow him to have erred who never affected infallibility, and who also often measured distances by land incorrectly. The younger Kruse’s recently attempted assistance helps not the difficulty; it relieves him of the charge of error, to lay upon him the imputation of mischievous thoughtlessness. Larcher tries to succour the historian by supposing that he here made use of different stadia in his measurement, without having given any notice to that effect. Of this mistake more afterwards.
He could hardly have sailed through the Palus Maeotis, or he would not have estimated it as only a little less than the Pontus Euxinus. But in these parts he was by no means satisfied with observing the fair circle of Greek colonies, most of them founded by Miletus; the barbarians also were included within his scope, which extended beyond the narrow territories of the Greeks. With this object he inspected a portion of Thrace, yet so that he did not on that occasion go beyond the Danube, though at some other time he must have passed beyond the mouths of that river; beyond that stream, as the Thracians related, “the land was waste, nor could anyone advance farther on account of the vast swarms of bees.” He also made acquaintance with the Scythians when he visited the country that lies between the Bog (Hypanis) and the Dnieper (Borysthenes), where they run towards the sea, and where he beheld with astonishment the huge brasen vessel, capable of containing six hundred amphorae, and which was said to have been made out of polished Scythian arrow-heads. In both these countries he thought be saw traces , of the expedition of Sesostris; as he did also in Colchis, and in Palestine.
Before, however, we come thither, we must mention, what indeed is evident of itself, that he also knew by ocular observation the interior of Asia Minor, for instance, Lydia with its city of Sardes, and no less the coast of Phoenicia; since that which is only a matter of conjecture at the very beginning of bis work, is afterwards confirmed, viz. his actual residence in Tyre; he sailed thither, in order to find a solution of the problem, which must have been so interesting to him as an historian, “whether the Heracles there worshipped was a god of very great antiquity and a distinct personage from the Heracles who once lived among men and was honoured as a deified hero in Greece.” Since the Egyptian priests maintained this to be the case, and as he limited his enquiries on the point to the temple of Heracles at Tyre, and to another built by the Phoenicians in Thasos, he believed, as usual, that he was bound to allow the priests to be in the right; we however dare certainly to retain our doubts on this matter. He had at that time already been in Egypt, since it was there that the above-mentioned problem was presented to him; and it is very probable that, after having obtained sufficient acquaintance with the memorable events of his fatherland, he embarked in one of the ports of Greece, probably Athens or Corinth, for Egypt, whence he afterwards sailed to Phoenicia. He could easily venture to do that on board an Athenian vessel; although “the peace of Cimon” was not yet made with Persia, yet the war had ceased, and the Great King had withdrawn his ships of war from the Mediterranean; the deputy-governors of the Phoenician and Egyptian provinces had only to pay in punctually their stated tribute in money and the produce of their soil, since the spirit of the time made it no longer practicable to interfere by prohibitions with the daily course of foreign traffic and commerce of the provinces. Lower Egypt, therefore, was constantly crowded with Greek merchants, some of them settled there, and others passing to and fro; the wine of Greece especially would not be wanting there, even the Laconians engaged in active commerce with Egypt, as well as Libya; ships sailing thence were wont to keep close to the shore of the island of Cythera. But as far as concerns the Phoenicians, the commerce of a portion of them with Greece was so great and influential, that old Phoenician customs came thereby into disuse. They exported storax to Greece, an article which was a mere trifle among the variety of goods which they always had in store, waiting for orders. In the winter of the second year of the Peloponnesian war the Athenians sent out, under the command of Melesander, a small detached naval armament, partly to prevent any Peloponnesian privateers from running out from some of the many creeks of the Carian and Lycian coasts, and capturing the merchant-vessels which would pass in that direction from Phaselis and Phoenicia, and other parts of the coast, towards Athens. The continuance of a mercantile intercourse between Phoenicia and Attica to the time of Philip and Alexander, is also capable of being proved; it seems therefore as if there were no need of the arguments by which the meritorious author of “Thoughts upon Political Science and Commerce” has sought to throw light upon the supposed feeble commerce between the Phoenicians and the Greeks in their days of prosperity. Be that as it may, Herodotus was unrestricted in his choice of a ship to carry him to Egypt, and from thence to Phoenicia; his descent however from Asiatic Greece might be of advantage to him in the provinces of the Persian empire
Everybody knows what Herodotus has done for Egypt; its amount is so great, that no succeeding writer can be put in comparison with him. We can however hardly assume from this, that he had cultivated the language of Egypt, because since the time of Psammetichus, it was easy to gain sufficient help without this labour, on account of the number of Greek settlers, and of the class of Greek interpreters, purposely educated as such. Herodotus certainly made use of one of these, but not simply as a guide; he caused him to interpret the inscription on the pyramid Of Cheops, which without a doubt was only in the ordinary writing of Egypt, and not in hieroglyphics, of which, by the bye, the contents were hardly worth mentioning, the record namely of the quantity of garlick and onions which the labourers had consumed, and how much that came to in money. It would seem moreover that he kept no regular journals, but only made notes occasionally, in common trusting to the unenfeebled vigour of his memory; since he says in this very passage that “he remembers perfectly well” that the interpreter specified 1600 talents. And yet in the animated narrative of his second book, Egypt actually seems to him, not indeed in ancient well-authenticated history, but just as it presented itself before the eyes of the observer, attesting its indisputable antiquity by many sublime monuments, far more significantly, than by the mouth of its priests, who consoled themselves by their idle talk for their then state of diminished power. Fresh evidences are constantly testifying to his talent for observation, and for that animated tact in describing countries which everywhere seizes upon the fundamental and distinctive features. But the historian will value him most highly, because on ground so exposed to seduction, he remained true to his high calling. We may be thankful that he did not degenerate into the mere mythologist; that his clear and active mind, so tolerant in his judgment of human things, preserved him from the devious path, and from the toil of digging among stones and carved figures for the solution of some secret in the history of the gods, whose mysterious veil the ingenuity of man is ever trying to remove, happy if he can secure as a prize the exalted charm of the mysterious secret. He, who was accompanied at every step by an earnest recollection of divine things, seems to have had his mouth, else so ready to communicate, closed by an awful respect for the unknown. We naturally shrink from publishing to living men the secret ways of the undying and ever-present; how much less could the grey-headed historian presume to do so, who, having been initiated in many sacred rites and familiar with the doctrines of Pythagoras, hoped soon to approach a better and a purer atmosphere! Indeed we altogether mistake his object, if we assume that he devoted any earnest attention to the religion of Egypt, taken wholly by itself as a system. He seems to have studied it principally as a portion of the history and as an auxiliary historical expedient. In the same manner the solution of the problem which called him to Tyre was historically important; and when he made the long journey from Memphis to Thebes and Heliopolis, and placed himself everywhere in connexion with the priesthood, it was, according to his own declaration, in order to be able to decide, whether their accounts of the most ancient history of Egypt agreed with one another. The history of their gods occurs only as something tacked on to the narrative, as a matter to be rather passed over, and not as the proper object of his enquiries. He stayed for some time in the south at Elephantina, and employed himself in diligent enquiries concerning the countries further onward; it may also be clearly inferred that he did not himself visit the Ethiopians who dwelt directly south of Elephantina; he is silent about the inhabitants at a greater distance and the most remote “upon the very margin of the earth,” those dwellers in caves, those swiftfooted, snake-eating creatures, who utter instead of speech, a screeching noise like bats. But he became acquainted with every place and object of importance within his reach, not only where those imperishable works, the pyramids stood, or the most remarkable obelisks, or the amazing labyrinth (which however has since perished); but he also visited cities whose splendour was of more recent date; as Sais, where since the time of Psammetichus stood a noble royal castle; he explored the Delta of the Nile in all directions; surveyed near the Pelusiac mouth the battlefield where the Egyptians surrendered their independence to the Persians, and the more recent one at Papremis where the still fresh sculls of the slain bore witness to the second effort to recover their liberty made by the Egyptians with the assistance of the Athenians and of Inaros, the king of Libyia.
Section IV. A solution presents itself for settling the exact time of the travels of Herodotus in Egypt,
But we will dwell yet a moment longer on the passage just referred to; since it affords us a hope of fixing a date in a legitimate way, which we hesitated to determine arbitrarily. Herodotus observed in the battlefield of Pelusium, that the sculls of the Persians who fell there could be easily broken even by a little stone, whilst those of the Egyptians would often resist a large stone dashed against them. “ That this was a fact,” he says, “I saw myself; I saw also besides this, a similar appearance at Papremis, in the case of those who were slain there together with Achaemenes, son of Darius, by Inaros, the Libyan.” Now this occurrence took place in the first year of the reign of Artaxerxes. The commander of the Persian army, the kings uncle, had already been appointed governor of Egypt by Xerxes; he came in order to maintain the province of Egypt which was making an effort to shake off the yoke, nor was he now for the first time sent by the Persian court with a vast army for that purpose, as Diodorus relates, who however gives neither the duration of this rebellion nor its issue correctly. It was in Olymp. 79. 2—3, and 462 BC, that Inaros, a king of Libya, whose territories bordered on Lower Egypt, suddenly established himself in the city of Marea, and from thence made himself master of the greatest part of Egypt. The natives took up arms to assist him; it was on this occasion that the governor of the province marched against him and fell in the battle near Papremis, which I take for granted was on the west side of Lower Egypt. Inaros, in order to maintain himself, called in to his assistance the Athenians, who soon made their appearance, established themselves in Memphis, and played the part of masters over Egypt, until a Persian army under the judicious Megabazus frustrated the plan, inflicted a severe loss upon the Athenians, and hung Inaros on a cross. Had it been granted to our historian entirely to fill up the plan of his work, we should certainly have learnt these remarkable occurrences in detail. They occupied, in all, six years, that is from 462 to 456 BC. Here then we give our inference; Herodotus found himself in Egypt after the commencement of the insurrection, since he saw the battlefield of Papremis where the bones of the slain now lay exposed; besides this, it is not likely, that he would have gone into Egypt during this bloody period, or that he could have succeeded so well in his enquiries in that case, as we find he did. For instance, he could not then have obtained the sight of Memphis, around which the war raged for several years. Whereas after the re-establishment of peace, at the most only some swampy districts of the Delta, called emphatically “the marshes,” would be still shut against him, as being the place where the Egyptian Amyrtaeus maintained himself as king many years after the transactions in which Inaros had taken part, and from whence at last, having watched for his opportunity, he succeeded in extreme old age in gaining the crown of Egypt.
How stands the question now, respecting the recitation at Olympiad In the year in which admiring Greece is said to have listened to the reading of the complete work of Herodotus the war of Inaros was brought to an end, and the author had not as yet seen anything of Egypt, (which supplies one of the principal contents of the work) and still less of Phoenicia.
He could not have undertaken these travels till he was now between thirty and forty years old; that is, from 454 to 444
Section V. Distant Travels out of Greece brought to a conclusion.
Beyond the boundaries of Egypt he also made digressions to the right and to the left: on the side of Arabia, since he heard that there, not far from the Egyptian border-city of Buto, winged serpents were to be found: and he had his expectation so far gratified that he saw their bones and spines in vast heaps. At all events he was more lucky when near the famous Buto (on the Sebennytic mouth of the Nile, and not to be confounded with the other Buto), he, on proceeding thither, actually saw the wonderful floating-island in the lake hard by, concerning which the Egyptians “knew circumstantially on what occasion it began to float before him certainly it did not choose to float nor stir from its place; nay, he confesses that he should consider the fact of a floating island a great miracle. He probably went no farther into the interior of Arabia, and as to the scented air of Arabia Felix, which he describes as so wonderful he could hardly have had any other sensible experience of it than through its exported spicery. For he knew the length of the Arabian mountain-chain only by hearsay, and in the same way he learnt that the frankincense-tree grew on the farthest borders towards the east. That he himself never set foot in the region which produces it, is evident from the fabulous story which he repeats of the winged serpents which “must be dexterously driven away before the precious commodity could be gathered”.
The learned enquirers, Larcher and Ukert, are of opinion that Herodotus went into the interior of Libya as well as visited Carthage. Certainly his repeated reference to Carthaginian accounts, with the expression, “as the Carthaginians relate”, are to be considered of important weight; and since Herodotus is accustomed, where he gives his authorities, to weigh his words carefully, we may well hesitate to allow them to be considered as the mere narrations of merchant-navigators. And indeed he must certainly have been in one part of Libya, which lies westward of Lower Egypt, among those who dwelt nearest to Egypt and had submitted to Cambyses as soon as he had conquered Egypt; as did also Cyrene and Barce. These Libyans were probably ruled over by that formidable enemy of the Persians, Inaros, and in the time of Herodotus by Thannyras his son, whom, after his father’s death, the Great King had suffered to reign, subject to tribute and homage. Herodotus may have prosecuted here his enquiries concerning the sources of the Nile, though here also without learning anything satisfactory. But the great body of the Libyan nation was altogether independent of any connexion with Persia, or, as Herodotus expresses it, “they cared nothing about the Great King”. We must not suppose that he performed his travels in this direction, across the sandy desert of Libya, a journey which it is not possible to accomplish without the assistance of “the ship of the desert.” Herodotus certainly came by sea from Egypt to Cyrene; for at Cyrene be most certainly must have been. We perceive this by the manner in which he speaks of the image of a god which was still standing in his time in front of the city of Cyrene; and likewise by his comparison of the material of the river-boats of the Egyptians, a species of thorn, with the lotus-plant of Cyrene. Herodotus is able also to give the general distinctive features and an enumeration of the nomad tribes of Libya, in the successive order in which they dwelt; and in this way he carries us on from the western boundary of Egypt as far as the lake Tritonis without a single hiatus; at this point, to the south of Carthage, where the sand decreases and hills and woods present themselves, those Libyans dwell who practise agriculture. One might think that there would have been a good deal to say about these people, and that in the great space extending thence to the columns of Hercules there would be the names of many nations to be recorded. Only three tribes, however, appear, and these insufficiently characterized ; he presents us here with a couple of stories about Carthaginian traffic, which, in their kind at least, might be learnt just as well out of Carthage. For the purpose of shewing the state of that tract he refers only to the bare testimony of the nomad Libyans. On such authority he tells us of a people there who had heads like dogs, and some without any heads at all, and with eyes in their breasts; of wild men and women, and other strange creatures which Herodotus himself calls lying wonders. So then if we choose to admit that Herodotus visited Carthage, we would yet deny the beneficial results of it, and assume that he did not succeed in obtaining information there.
Thus much is certain, that he did not penetrate into the interior of Africa, that he did not go to the salt-hills of the desert, which however are by no means fabulous; that he did not visit the oracle of Ammon; though he derived his accounts of it from some men of Cyrene who had themselves talked with the Libyans called Nasamones, and learnt from them, as eye-witnesses, the particulars of the temple. Down towards the supposed “margin of the earth,” as well southward as westward, all knowledge was lost; they spoke however of some people who had no names, who cursed the noonday sun, and who are said never to have any dreams.
Such indefatigable diligence (and how many instances of it might we accumulate!) was shewn by a man who at a distance from home was free from narrow-minded Grecian partialities, in order to bring to the light the dark ways of all descriptions of men. The honesty and truth of his dealings (which had nothing to fear but the precise critic, and perhaps us who live two thousand years after him) seem everywhere to deserve our admiration, and indeed to be above all comparison. How seldom in our days are bare matters of fact simply related! People fashion them with a view to some preconceived purpose; for they not only take possession of, and defend upon some certain assumed ground, what is tangible, but they appropriate also imaginary representations, and maintain them as their actual property. Thus it is that narratives are constructed according to men’s wishes and passions; and there are few who, if they do not altogether suppress what is not agreeable to them, suffer it to appear in its own simple strength
The worm which eats into the truth is vanity. This tempts the traveller to represent what at most has happened but once, as having happened to himself, and himself as having seen what others saw before him. We never catch Herodotus in such a practice; he who was present everywhere, is almost always absent in his book; and when he does appear, it is only to be doubly missed afterwards.
Let us now transport him from the Delta of Egypt to Tyre, from whence he might also have travelled into Palestine, whose inhabitants were thought by him, as also the Phoenicians allowed, to have received their practice of circumcision from the Egyptians. Here he found standing some columns raised by Sesostris, with inscriptions which served as a standing punishment to the natives for their cowardly submission to him. He also visited Jerusalem, since I believe, that I may assume with the older expositors, that this city was intended by him under the name of Kadytis, i.e. “the holy city” For Herodotus speaks of it as a large city, and in a subsequent passage, as a city “not much smaller, as he believed, than Sardis” Now to what other city in those parts could that apply? Besides, there is the historical fact, recorded of the Egyptian king Necus, that he gained a victory, and “after the battle, captured the city of Kadytis, a large city of Syria”, statement which sufficiently agrees with the bible-account of Pharaoh Necho, who after the fight in which king Josiah fell, entered Jerusalem as conqueror, putting down one king and setting up another. In speaking of the tract of country which, extending over three days’ journeying through a waterless waste, separates Palestine from Egypt, Herodotus expresses himself as one who had actually seen the spot and had made the journey; stating what places the Arabians, and what the Syrians inhabited, as for as the lake Serbonis, where Egypt commences. But we must be on our guard against forming any strong position out of these sketches. It was the time when the Jews, recently restored by Cyrus, and having at length rebuilt their temple, prospered, more than ever, under Persian satraps. It was only in the preceding generation that Ezra had brought in the new settlers, and established their ancient law and ordinances. At that time the latest holy books of the Jews had been written; and it was afterwards, in the days when Herodotus was helping to build the home of his old age, that Nehemiah appeared, and, with the permission of king Artaxerxes, built up again the walls of the holy city, after their long-continued state of ruin. Jerusalem, as an unwalled place, but defended by a lofty fortress, might, at a somewhat earlier date, have reminded Herodotus of Sardis.
But who will undertake to determine exactly how he prosecuted his travels into the interior of Asia? We know thus much, that the royal high-road, which led from Ephesus by Sardis to Susa, was accurately known by him in all its stations. He must certainly on the whole have followed this road, which was usually passed over in three months and three days, and it was probably necessary for him to keep to the high-road. Supposing, however, that he made the journey from his home at Halicarnassus, he might have made use of the road which led out of Caria into the high-road. Let us, however, take only what may be considered certain. He saw the Euphrates and the Tigris; he visited Babylon in its reduced splendour, but still in the same exuberance of natural fertility, the description of which (to use his own expression) “appear incredible to one who had not been there himself.” As he turned northward and travelled through the land of Media, the sight of Ecbatana, with its many circles of walls, suggested to his mind the city of Athens, as being about as large in circumference as the outermost wall of the city of Deioces. He also, without doubt, visited the splendid Susa, the peculiar residence of the kings of Asia. This we might assuredly determine from the circumstance of his adding, when he is speaking of the so-called Indian ants, “that some of them were in the possession of the king of Persia,” i. e. in the royal palace. But, without at all taking into the account the exactness with which he marks out the high-road to Susa throughout its whole extent, like one who is speaking from his own observation, it is clearly seen that Herodotus was at the royal residence of Arderica (only 5 miles from Susa). He was attracted to this place by the remarkable fact, that the captive Eretrians of Euboea, those sole trophies which the day of Marathon left in the hands of the Persians, had been carried off and settled there by Darius, son of Hystaspes. Herodotus remarks that these unwilling colonists preserved their native language still in his time, that is, at the time of his actual presence there. Had he not visited, and himself found there, these transplanted Greeks, what he says of their language would not have been worth his mentioning so early as the second, or even the third generation—one more proof this, that Herodotus performed his travels in his riper years. But there is so much in the tone of the narrative of Herodotus, and in the nature of the case, to shew that he went thither himself, as well as to Ecbatana, that it is incomprehensible to me how a scholar, diligent and careful in other respects, could have formed the notion, that Herodotus did not proceed beyond Babylon. As to what remains, it is hardly necessary to observe that he did not extend his travels into India, nor even into Aria, Bactria, or Gedrosia. He would in that case (only to mention one instance) have done greater justice to the actual extent and size of Asia, than he has done; he would also have spoken of the Persian Gulf and of the river Araxes in a very different manner.
CHAPTER THE FIFTH.
RESULTS OF HIS TRAVELS.
Section I. General Geography, Divisions of the Earth
From his wanderings of many years, Herodotus brought back the fundamental notion, that the earth was constructed with a wonderful variety, not uniform, as if cast in one mould, either in form or substance, and least of all so in the species and inclinations of its human inhabitants; of all climates, however, he was pleased most with the native skies of his own Asiatic Greece, and of all human things with the freedom of European Greece. He conceived the earth to be a large body in a state of repose; on what then does it repose ? is it on the condensed air of the lower segment of the celestial sphere? A Democritus might busy himself with such an enquiry; he left it undisturbed. He assumed, however, that the Oceanus (which he considered not as a river, but as an Ocean) surrounded the whole earth, although a complete proof thereof may not be obtained from experience. His laughter was excited by the customary representation of the earth, i.e. the land, as a round disc, as if turned by a lathe; for he knew enough of the form of the south at least, to understand that its outline presented no segment of a circle towards the ocean. He was acquainted also, if not with the Persian, yet with the Arabian Gulf. He left the description of the earth, as a whole, as he found it generally received, divided, that is, into three unequal parts; though well aware of the arbitrariness of that division. He often expresses himself as if displeased therewith, and cannot reconcile the notion, whoever may have entertained it, with the natural oneness of the earth; nor yet the fancy of dividing it capriciously into small portions called after the names of three females. If indeed it were possible, he would be better pleased with the two-fold division, after the Persian fashion, into Asia and Europe; but he now calls them, as the Ionians do, Asia, Europe, and Libya. Of these divisions of the earth, the first, estimated according to our mode of thinking, is as much too contracted as the second is unreasonably overgrown. Then his Europe appears fully as large, if not more than as large, as the other two divisions of the earth taken together. For instance, while he gave the preference to the plan which chose the Phasis rather than the Tanais as the boundary on the side of Asia, Europe, enlarged by the addition of the whole of northern Asia, made up the entire northern half of the earth: nay, as far as concerns the west, it even projected beyond. Of the extent of this division of the earth towards the east and north, nothing could then be said, because it was not so much as known whether or not circumnavigation were practicable.
In comparison with this monstrous size of Europe, (on two sides of which sufficient room was left for the imagination), the division called Libya appeared truly insignificant. In the first place it was circumnavigable, because, as it was pretended, it had been circumnavigated, and was in general so situated that he considered it rather as an excrescence from, and a continuation of, Asia. It seems also not able to stand a comparison in point of productiveness with the two other divisions). Besides, what is said concerning the population is clearly superficial: viz. “two native tribes and two of foreign origin, the former Libyans and Ethiopians, the latter Phoenicians and Greeks.” In this classification Egypt probably was not intended to be reckoned. But the Greeks, who looked upon the Nile as the boundary of Asia in that direction, in the same way as they considered the Phasis on the other side, generally agreed in dividing Egypt into two parts, of which the western belonged to Libya, the eastern to Asia. Herodotus considers the whole invention of the several divisions of the earth as a puerile conceit of his dear countrymen; he contents himself with relating the fact, and in a jesting manner adds, “if the Ionians were of opinion that the Delta of the Nile alone formed Egypt, whilst the rest of the country belonged to two different geographical divisions, they would be found to contradict themselves; for they must then concede not only three divisions, but also a fourth, that is, the Delta of Egypt.”
The Persians, in the true oriental spirit of unenquiring indolence, looked upon Africa as a part of the body of Asia which belonged to them, and upon Europe as a portion intended for them, but in which the Greeks were pleased to play the master. The Greeks, one with another, were called by them, Ionians, but Herodotus takes delight in calling the Asiatic Greeks by that title: and when he speaks of Ionian opinions and views, we may understand that the expression, according to the rule of writing, relates also to the Aeolians or the Dorians. But one thing Herodotus certainly took from the east, the custom, namely, of indicating the great sea south of Asia, by the name of the Red (or Erythraean) Sea. The rocks of porphyry on the Egyptian side of the Arabian Gulf supplied a natural cause for this appellation, throwing out their red colour far into the sea; thus it is readily comprehended why the Persians at this day, still firmly retaining the antithesis, call the Mediterranean the White Sea. Herodotus nowhere applies the name of Red Sea exclusively to the Arabian Gulf, which he treats of and describes as a part of the Erythraean; its length might be sailed over by a galley with oars in forty days; its breadth, where it is broadest, in half a day. This calculation is not excessive, for Niebuhr, the father of the Roman historian, sailed its whole length in thirty-four days. We do Herodotus injustice if we impute to him confused notions on this point. He says expressly, the Caspian is a sea by itself; but that sea which the Greeks generally navigate, (the Mediterranean) the Atlantic beyond the columns of Hercules, and “the Red Sea,” all form one and the same sea. Indeed therein is contained his main conviction of the practicability of circumnavigating Africa. The Persians, he says, dwell near the Southern Sea, which u called the Red. The Euphrates and the Tigris run into “the Red Sea”. It is, therefore, at all events, only to be taken in the most general sense, when Herodotus says in the beginning of his work, that the Phoenicians originally dwelt on the Red Sea, and in a subsequent passage adds nothing farther than that their removal to the Mediterranean Sea was effected by land to the coast of Syria.
Section II. Sketch of Asia.
Strange as is his mode of proceeding in his delineation of the figure of Asia, he nevertheless, as it seems to me, expresses without confusion how he would have it understood. The limited extent of his information allowed him to go no farther than to sketch the figure of the western division of the earth, where he enters upon that connecting sea, which the Greek was justified in calling pre-eminently “this water” the really mediterranean sea. He takes as the starting-point of his delineation the space between the two bodies of water, the Black Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south. Spreading from the south towards the north of this space, are the Persians, Medes, Saspirians, and, most northerly, the Colchians, in whose country the Phasis (the boundary stream between Europe and Asia) runs into the Black Sea, or, as Herodotus calls it, the Pontus Euxinus. From this mainland shoot out two large peninsulas towards the west; the one stretching northward, inhabited by thirty different nations, and which we call Asia Minor, and ending towards the south in the bay which runs towards Phoenicia; the other, beginning with Persia and running southward, reaches on the one side to the Red, or Erythraean Sea. In this is Persia, and next to that Assyria (which in its wider acceptation comprehends Syria, Palestine, and Phoenicia, and so brings the delineator to the boundary-line of the first peninsula in the Phoenician bay), and next to Assyria comes Arabia. In this account, as Niebuhr has already remarked, the Persian Gulf seems to be altogether lost sight of. “This (second) peninsula ends, though certainly by human ordinance only in the Arabian gulf, into which Darius had carried a branch-canal from the Nile f that is to say, that canal which, beginning from the Nile above Bubastis, on the Pelusian branch of that river, unites it with the Red Sea, and so connects this with the Mediterranean.
Thus this artificial communication completes the peninsula, since it leads from one sea to the other. What I have here given appears to me to be indisputably what Herodotus intended to convey ; and had he been obliged to determine the boundary of Asia on the side of Africa, he would certainly have named this canal.
Herodotus proceeds with his description of the figure of this peninsula, and first on the land-side. From Persia to Phoenicia there is a large and broad extent of land, but from Phoenicia the peninsula stretches, he says, “by our sea” along Palestine, Syria and Egypt, where it ends, (namely at the canal of Darius). But, in fact, he intended, according to the natural form of the earth, as he describes it, to reckon Libya in this second peninsula; since, he says, it is very narrow on the side of Egypt, only a thousand stadia (25 miles) broad, but it spreads out again to a very great extent. Thus much was sufficient for the Greek reader, who was satisfied with sketching for himself a faint conception, according to the instructions of Herodotus. We find in him no such extensive delineations applied to the other divisions of the globe; at the most only some detached points marked out. He does however remark, that above those four nations towards the north-east are the Caspian Sea and the river Araxes; that farther eastward Asia is still inhabited as far as India, beyond which all is a waste, of which no one can give any account.
Section III. The Nile and the Danube.
The Nile and the Danube, in the south and north, were objects of great importance with Herodotus; he had seen both rivers, and both of them riveted his attention. While investigating the mysterious sources of the Nile, he learnt in Cyrenaica about a large river which runs from west to east through the interior of Libya, and to which, on different occasions, the Nasamones, a people living near the Syrtis, had penetrated. He was already aware from other sources that he himself, who knew the course of the Nile as far as Elephantina, knew only a very small portion of that river, and that others had traced it still higher, i. e. a journey of four months, through the country of the Ethiopians. How natural then was it, that he should be favourably inclined to the opinion to which the king of the Ammonians led the Cyrenaeans, viz. that the great stream from the west was likewise the Nile! How natural, still farther, that considering the portion of the Nile which he had seen as a mere nothing, he should have sketched the river in his chart as running on the whole from west to east, though he well knew that he himself had seen it only in its progress from north to south. We indeed have recently been informed, that the river which the Nasamones saw, must have been the Niger; meanwhile the question, whether the Niger has any, the least connexion with the Nile, has never been settled in the affirmative or negative. The testimony of the natives seems in favour of such a connexion; the observations of scientific travellers and the measurements made in Sennaar, of the elevation of the land between both rivers, appear to oppose the idea.
Our traveller now proceeds upon important grounds, and though he does not stop very far short of the truth, he seems nevertheless, as far as concerns the Danube, to have been deceived by an unweighed preconception. In conformity with his favourite plan of making the northern half of the earth (viz. Europe) an equivalent to the southern half (i. e. Asia, with the addition of Libya), he conceived that the Danube, though certainly smaller by itself than the Nile, nevertheless by the junction of many other streams became the largest of all rivers, completely corresponding with the Nile and equally long, dividing the whole of Europe in the middle, as the Nile does Libya, and that quite in the same direction, towards the east. Also both rivers lay exactly over-against each other, or, as we should say, emptied themselves into the sea under one meridian, whilst Egypt, Cilicia, Sinope, and the mouth of the Danube, formed different points on one and the same line. Finally, it is indeed no excessive departure from the truth of the case, that the figure of the earth would thereby be too much dislocated; but the whole assumption has these consequences, that the Danube answering to the Nile, must make a long bend towards its mouth, from north to south; and thus Thrace, as lying to the lower part of the river, comes to be so monstrously stretched out towards the north as, to our surprise, we find it in Herodotus; while Scythia, according to his delineation, is an exact square. In such a manner does his pursuit of a fanciful him from the truth. Nor did the notion ever leave him; it luxuriated in his mind, and caused him even to compare the many rivers of Scythia with the canals of Egypt, nay, to follow up the idea so far as to think that, if the north could change place with the south, the Danube would overflow its bed as the Nile now does.
Of the nations which, higher up the Danube, inhabited our Germany, Herodotus probably knew much more than he recounts, at least as far as concerns the names and individual notices of those nations; since he represents the course of the Danube as being known to many, for this plain reason, that it flows through inhabited countries, while the Nile, on the contrary, runs for the most part through a desert. His placing the source of the Danube in the country of the Celtae agrees also very well with the ancient history of Germany, without making it necessary to identify the Celts? with the Germani. He does indeed make the river come from the farthest west of Europe; and the city of Pyrene, near which it took its rise, is perhaps nothing but a confused tradition of the Pyrenees.
Section IV. A View of the Earth according to its Productions.
Similar to that preconceived notion is his account of the situation of the central regions of the earth, for which he unhesitatingly takes his own native side of the Mediterranean, where Europe and Asia seem peaceably to salute one another towards the border-countries of the earth. According to him, the inhabited parts of the world towards the east terminated with India; since beyond it lay an unexplored desert of sand. Towards the south, he made the boundary of this central region consist of Arabia, together with the neighbouring Aethiopia, extending far to the west. This then would be the south-west. But how the north-west was circumstanced, or in what way Europe ended towards the west, he certainly had no accurate knowledge. Moreover, on account of his want of better information, he tells us he could neither believe in the existence of a river there, named Eridanus (of which the poets make frequent mention, that it, for instance, flows into the north sea, and that amber is obtained from it), nor yet in that of the Cassiterides, or tin-islands. But he evidently did not think there was here, as in the earth's eastern extremity, an uninhabited desert; since he even places a race of men, the Celts, beyond the columns of Hercules, among whom the Danube had its source; and he was acquainted, still farther, with the Cynetae. The northern boundaries of the earth however remained dark and unknown to him. Incomplete as the compass of his knowledge was, nevertheless Herodotus made use of it as a ground for maintaining that though Greece, in the centre of the earth, could boast of possessing the finest temperature of seasons, nevertheless some of the most beautiful and most coveted productions abounded most at the earths extremities. For India produces the most beautiful animals of all kinds, and plants which yield a better wool than that of sheep; it has likewise an immense quantity of gold in the soil and in the streams; Arabia has its incense and spices; again, Ethiopia gold and huge elephants, and ebony, and the largest, finest, longest-lived of men. As to the western boundaries of Europe, whatever were their situation, thus much is certain, that tin and the highly-valued amber came thence; that there was much gold in the north, we may read not only in Herodotus, but also in the Old Testament; and Rennel has taken considerable pains to bring forward the proof of its truth. As to the story of the one-eyed men, the Arimaspi, who carry off the gold there from the griffins, our old historian himself does not believe it; and perhaps he would have been somewhat less positive about the gold, had not an occasion been ready for his making an eloquent application of it. It produced a beautiful train of thought in his account of that period of time when almost all the powers of the world were rising up against Greece. It was then that the Spartan, Demaratus, is thus made to speak to the wealthy king of Persia: “Poverty has always been naturally domesticated in Greece, but virtue is an adscititious good which wisdom and strict law have appropriated to them. It is by the exercise of these same things that Greece has warded off both poverty and slavery”.
It is in these general views that both the strength and the weakness, exhibited in the efforts of the historian to arrive everywhere at a certain order and regularity, are disclosed to us, as well as the still apparent rocks on which his labours in this department could not but founder. He takes upon himself the debt of the generation in which he lived, and it does not oppress him. The activity of a mind, so conversant with human life, was well qualified to arrive at a certain degree of enlightenment respecting the many mysterious problems in earth and sky; nothing however was undertaken by him in reference to the prevalent theories of natural philosophy. They were too abstract for him, playing as they did with forces without being able to make them harmonize, and in other respects not coinciding with his practical observations. Men like Democritus, who to a certain degree united both directions of mind, are rarely to be found. The man of many travels endeavours on every occasion to help himself through as well as he can, little disturbed by thinking how his naive attempts at explanation might appear in the great scheme of nature. But hereby probably Herodotus did serious injury to his calling; many of his countrymen, who looked down upon him on physical matters, or kept their own presumed wisdom hidden beneath obscure formulae, accused him of being a meer prattler. He is certainly unlike himself, when he accounts for the harsh climate of countries from the coldness of the winds, and thereby seems to consider the winds in a certain degree as local, as if they were a sort of vegetable or animal production of those countries; when the overflowing of the Nile (the real cause of which Democritus recognized in the tropical rains which fall in Ethiopia) is derived by him from the increased distance of the sun, lingering in the northern regions, and therefore able to attract less of its water by exhalation;—a theory according to which the river when just in its usual state, that is, when it flows within its proper channel, would be to be considered as exhausted and enfeebled;—when he even makes the sun to be driven from his path by cold northwinds; and when he reckons the morning-hours as the hottest part of the day in India, because the sun rises in the east, and India lies entirely in the east
Section V. Measurements of length used in his travels.
The traveller is in his proper province when he is engaged amidst actual measurements and surveying. In this respect there is no want of painstaking in Herodotus. All his measurement in length is given naturally from the human body and its limbs; as their size, on the whole, differs but little throughout the world, so also the measurements of the most distinct races agree through a natural necessity in one certain standard. For larger spaces the feet present themselves, while the hand conveniently measures smaller ones, either in whole or in parts, without any necessity of moving from the spot. Most of the proportions are readily shewn from Herodotus, who everywhere took established usage for his guide.
Of hand-measures the first that presents itself is the finger’s-breadth, digitus, the smallest Greek measure of length, which is not made use of beyond three for, when a higher number is wanted, the hand-breadth, palmus, comes in, containing the breadth of four fingers; these again, taken four times, mount up to the foot-measure, four palms or hand-breadths being exactly a foot. But the foot cannot come everywhere where the arm can reach; there the span, offers itself. By this Herodotus measured the figures carved in the rocks, which were pointed out to him as memorials of the ancient expedition of Sesostris. Every one readily comprehends that the span is equal to three hand-breadths; these figures were five spans in height, that is, 3f feet high. Six hand-breadths (or two spans) make the ell, a Grecian foot and a half. The ell, a term which is borrowed from the arm (as its name expresses in Greek, in Latin, and likewise in German,) is not ordinarily made use of by Herodotus.
The foot-measures appear more frequently. The pace, we do not meet with; most of his measurements go back to the simple foot. The fathom, (supplying a proportional measure for the whole man, as the span did for the hand) was six feet; the plethrum, a hundred feet; the stadium, six hundred feet.
It is a distinguished service rendered by the latest German enquirer on this subject, to have rescued the stadium-measure from that unsettled fluctuation in which its simple quality had been artificially disguised by a mystical sort of measurement. Scheming, Gosselin, Larcher, and others, have wearied themselves with this subject. In order to protect the ancients from particular errors, they have treated them rather as wholly and entirely fools, who with ever-varying representations, always intended to express the same thing! A primitive people are said to have lived, who accurately knew and had measured the whole earth, and yet under similar names tacitly employed different measures! Would men but search out these measures, and on every occasion bring the right ones to be applied, all variations on the part of the historians would fall into an harmonious solution. The learned have at length learned this, without having remarked it, that they are themselves that primitive people. In vain had measured out the race-ground at Olympia to the length of six hundred feet, in vain is this adduced as exactly the proper distance for men to run without being exhausted, while the racecourse for horses was four times the length. In vain also does Herodotus say in plain words, “a stadium, which consists of a hundred fathoms, contains six plethra, and a fathom contains six feet”. His own words help him not; and not only Gosselin, but even Larcher forces upon him, every time his text becomes intricate, stadia of a different length by way of emendation. Everything is made easy to us by the admission that forty stadia are universally to be understood as a geographical mile, within a few paces.
Herodotus reduces the measures which were used in other countries to those of Greece. The Persian mile, or parasang, contained thirty stadia, or ¾ of a geographical mile; the schaenus of Egypt sixty stadia, or a geographical mile and a half.
But how seldom could the traveller make a practical application of this geographical measurement! Who had measured the distances before him ? and how could he make the measurement himself, when sailing over the sea, or wandering over the land ? In this case, a clear notion of the distance was obviously gained by calculating the time which the journey required. But this expedient led to inevitable inequalities; since travelling is not equally fast in all countries and on every soil; moreover the historical work was in danger of becoming a description of travels, or of travelling adventures. Herodotus in one passage takes the average of two hundred stadia, or five geographical miles, as the amount of a day’s journey possibly the expression was not intended universally. For he did so in order to give an idea of a definite object, that is, the quadrangular land of Scythia: and, for reckoning the days’-journeys which he had partly himself made along the coast, and partly (as far as concerned the interior of Scythia) been informed of by others, a certain mean proportion seemed necessary. We cannot therefore assume that he tacitly laid down this mode of reckoning as the basis of his calculation, where, for instance, he speaks of the Arabian mountain-chain, and assigns to it, on hear-say authority, an extent from east to west, amounting to a journey of two months. But this is evident also from the fact, that this passage stands earlier in the work than that which contains the scale of measurement which he lays down; Herodotus knew better than we do that the day’s-journey adapted itself to the nature of the ground and the means of progress; and moreover, that in long journeys a man can seldom reckon upon every day, especially in a hot climate; on which account he also reduces his reckoning to only one hundred and fifty stadia on the long journey from Sardis to Susa. This should be observed here in order to relieve Herodotus from the reproach of a remarkable mistake. He says that an active man, unencumbered by baggage, (for that is what is to be understood by the phrase “a well-girt man,”) could travel over the narrowest part of Asia Minor, from one sea to another, in five days. He repeats the same observation and takes, perhaps without being aware of it, a still greater distance, that is to say, from Cilicia to Sinope, which is by no means the narrowest part. Now if he had in view here his allowance of two hundred stadia for the day (as he specified in the latter passage), or even a higher number, in reference to his “active pedestrian,” then Niebuhr’s censure would be well-grounded. Ukert also, in his map of “Asia Minor, according to Herodotus,” would be right in giving it so very narrow a terminus; for the historian, though himself a native of Asia Minor, would have been by more than half short of the truth, and with him Scylax, who makes the same statement But it is probable that he is here speaking only of an experiment, which was made once or twice, diagonally across the peninsula, and that by a trained pedestrian. When the battle of Marathon was impending, the Athenian public courier, Phidippides, travelled the distance to Sparta so rapidly, as it was accounted, that he arrived there on the second day; this must at the least have been twenty-six miles. And what is more, an army of four thousand Spartans made a forced march of the same distance in three days. The narrowest passage across Asia Minor in a straight direction will not amount to more than double that distance. Such a journey at all events has nothing in it incredible.
The days sailing of a ship was in like manner reckoned merely in reference to the voyage of Herodotus in the Euxine sea. Such a voyage, allowing for each day’s sailing seventy thousand fathoms (one hundred fathoms making a stadium), amounts to seven hundred stadia, or seventeen and a half geographical miles; and for the nights sailing sixty thousand fathoms, amounting to six hundred stadia, or about fifteen geographical miles; making together thirty-two and a half. We have already noticed the mistake into which he fell, relating to the Euxine, from this mode of reckoning. It was impossible by this method always to maintain a strict accuracy; and if Herodotus did not allow for the windings and tackings of the voyage, (which later geographers have learnt to pay so much attention to, so as sometimes even to deduct one half on that account), then it becomes much more probable that he has given a statement double of the actual amount. But a meritorious service was rendered by him to that generation even with these imperfect indications, which, to say the least of them, combated the prevailing inclination for the immense. The account of the high road of the Persian empire, however, formed an exception, where are found accurate statements, according to which the whole distance from Ephesus, by Sardis (the proper commencement of the highroad which was provided with a succession of post-houses and regular stations), to the royal residence of Susa, amounted in stadia to fourteen thousand and forty, in parasangs to four hundred and sixty-eight, and in geographical miles to about three hundred and sixty. In Greece also enquiry was not quite idle. The road from Athens to the temple of Olympian Jupiter was measured; the distance was fourteen hundred and eighty-five stadia. But it is to be remarked and lamented on the whole question, that seriously perplexing errors are to be found in a great, probably in the greatest part of the reckonings in Herodotus, and that in truth, few sums total of importance agree with the individual calculations: whether it were because he was not a good calculator and possessed no method of facilitating such labours, or that negligence surprised the old man in copying older documents, or that the manuscripts have been carelessly prepared. Since, however, the numbers are written at length, and the manuscripts entirely agree in their statements, the first supposition is perhaps more likely, though the other seems to have been partially entertained in ancient times. Yet seldom has any one corrected him by subsequent calculations.
But geographical knowledge, exploring of countries, with other kinds of auxiliary information, are only auxiliary means to be made use of by the historian; he is required to measure that ever-moving, most invisible thing, time; he is bound (since he does not intend to embrace the whole history of the human race) carefully to join on his contribution of new information to that which was already known, while at the same time he improves that previous information, and supplies its deficiencies. Every inducement therefore, and not least of all his anxious efforts after a satisfactory chronology (for which he had himself collected abundant materials), led Herodotus to turn his eyes around him, whilst he was in Greece, to the works of his predecessors in the field of history.
CHAPTER THE SIXTH
A STORE OF WRITTEN MATERIALS FOR HISTORY, ALREADY EXISTING IN GREECE.
Section I. Poets; Homer and Hesiod, Soothsaying and Prophecy. Aristeas, Initiation in Mysteries.
Herodotus considered the celebrated names of Homer and Hesiod as much less connected with his especial province, and also of much less ancient date, than historians in general do now-a-days. The particular circumstances of the expedition against Troy, such as Homer relates them, were by no means considered by him as history, nor are they once made the basis of his narrative. He believed hardly anything connected with them except the fact of the conquest of Troy; and was very far from drawing such inferences, as Thucydides, for example, thinks might be derived from the catalogue of ships in the Iliad. Though he might have acquired this clearer sight on this point from his extended information, yet it is not to be denied that he owed it, at least in part, to his partiality for the accounts given by the Egyptian priests, which did not altogether harmonize with those of Homer. If he refused to assign to Homer several poems which passed for, yet the causes of this judgment appear not to lie very deep; in truth his own poetic sense, unawares to himself, may possibly have guided him in this decision. Indeed he seems quite paradoxical in his notion that the old poets were the cause that the Pantheon of the Greeks varied so much from that of the Egyptians, its presumed origin; for be actually declares that Homer and Hesiod, if not exactly the originators of the gods, yet certainly were the regulators of their claims, and the inventors of the national mode of representing them. These are his remarkable words: “Whence these gods originated, and how their respective forms were represented, is a thing which the Greeks, so to say, knew but yesterday or the day before. For I consider Hesiod and Homer to have lived four hundred years before me, and not more. They it was who composed the Theogonies of the Greeks, who gave to the deities their respective surnames, distributed among them their honours and employments, and delineated their figures. The other poets, who are said to have lived before these men, were, in my opinion, certainly subsequent to them. The first remark is what is said by the priestesses of Dodona; but the other about Hesiod and Homer is my own”
Besides the old dolphin-riding Arion, we find occasionally mentioned in other parts of Herodotus the names of celebrated poets, such as Alcaeus and Sappho, Solon, Simonides, Aeschylus; Pindar’s apothegm, “Custom is the king of the world,” was too much after the historian's own way of thinking, to be left unnoticed by him. Mention also occurs of the personal condition of Aesop
Prophecies also belong to history, for him who believes in them, or who has to do with believers in them. Besides the responses, delivered from the more peculiar places of prophecy, we have the prophecies of the Boeotian soothsayer Bacis (as well as those of Musaeus) occurring too often without the expression of any doubt of their worth and genuineness. Herodotus has in him nothing of the vein of Aristophanes, who, in his Knights, introduces us into the workshops where these prophecies were manufactured. This is not from any want of candour in the historian; he shrinks not from disclosing any impurity which polluted the temple; he points out by name a Pythia who had taken a bribe, in order to devote her memory to the greatest infamy.
But a rich mine, if only its value were genuine, was presented to the geographical enquirer in that wonderful man Aristeas of the island of Proconnesus, whom Suidas periculo suo calls a contemporary of Croesus and Cyrus. Once indeed he certainly was so. But marvellous traditionary stories have warranted as fact, that he had already lived at a much earlier date, but disappeared; that he lived once more at a later period and disappeared again; until he appeared a third and last time after an interval of three hundred and forty years; for this period of time Herodotus learns, “to his heart’s content,” by his enquiries of the Proconnesians, among whom Aristeas made his second appearance, as well as of the citizens of Metapontum, among whom he appeared on the third occasion. It was during his second abode upon earth, which lasted for seven years, that Aristeas wrote a poem in epic verse, called Arimaspeia, or the one-eyed people, which therefore might be fully as old as the Homeric poems. He boasted in his work of having penetrated northward as far as a certain people called Issedones: he relates what they told him of a nation of Arimaspians, who dwelt farther north than the Issedones, and still more northerly, the griffins which guard the gold upon the mountains, (which gold the Arimaspians carry off from them by force), but most northerly of all, the Hyperboreans, bordering on the farthest sea. Herodotus seems to me to proceed very sensibly on these matters. He places the different depositions together, remarking thereupon, that Aristeas himself only asserts that he went as far as the Issedones, but that everything else had been received by him merely as hearsay from the mouth of the Issedones. Now Herodotus really sets value on the testimony of the Issedones, because, as it seems, he had obtained other information concerning them. But he had already on an earlier occasion assured us that he could not imagine that there was any such people, who being in other respects formed like human beings, had yet only one eye; and now he very distinctly declares that he gives no credence to that information, and particularly that the Scythians also knew nothing about it of their own actual observation. The account of the Hyperboreans would appear purely of Grecian origin, because the so-called Homeric poems mention them, as also does Hesiod.
Now allowing all that is possible to the soundness of this judgment, yet I am not sure that Heeren does not go too far, while he points out the gold-guarding griffins in the gold-mines of southern Siberia; or Grotesend, who has selected for them the gold-bearing sandy desert of Kobi, in the upper part of China. But what will be the result, if Ritter, in his Vestibule to the Histories of the Nations of Europe, pronounces the story of the oft-returning Aristeas as an Hellenized my thus taken from the oldest Buddha lore of the immortality and migrations of the soul, and is proceeding to search every place for Budini, or people connected with Buddha; so that not even the noble German city of Budissin is spared, nor our Holstein sepulchral urns, on which wreaths of the Lotus are said to be seen!
From this instance of Aristeas, it is evident that every traditionary legend was not blindly adopted by Herodotus, whether it were in verse or in prose. On the one side certainly he received with readiness what was offered to him, and being but little acquainted with the laws according to which Nature, as long as we have known her, has been accustomed to act, he knew not our method of denying what is above or contrary to the natural course of events. But on that very account, viz. because according to his observation of nature, almost everything seemed to be possible, (since the most incredible things were actually found to exist among the strangely modified human race, and love and hatred often changed their nature with the change of objects and forms in different climates), it necessarily became his duty to be so much the more diligent in ascertaining the credibility of information. His object then really was to bring forward what had actually taken place in by-gone years, not that which was capable of being attractively represented as if it had really occurred. Therefore it was that he personally inspected everything, making enquiries of the learned and the unlearned. He drew inferences thence acutely, and discriminated between the different degrees of probability; and if he did not possess the talent of refutation with such strict logic as perhaps Plutarch did, yet he made a more frequent use of it. He never allowed two asserted facts, contradictory of each other, to be both true.
A deeply-rooted religious apprehensiveness dissuaded him still farther from the dubious histories of the gods, most of which could not please him for historical purposes, because their truth was not to be vouched for, or because they contradicted one another. Besides this, he had been filled with a contempt for the Theogonies of his own country by the priests of Egypt, whose notions were certainly more imposing and learned, though not so harmoniously constructed for beauty. And, lastly, might not the Mysteries have had a decided share in producing his great anxiety to avoid as much as possible the admixture of profound religious information with profane history ? Far from wishing to engage in the existing dispute, which is being carried to extremities, we may here, not inappropriately, represent Herodotus as acquainted with many secret rites, and as having his opinions seriously influenced by them. He had obtained initiation into the sacred rites of the Cabiri in Samothrace; he speaks as one familiar with those of Bacchus, and with the mystery of the Thesmophoria? which he was unwilling to approach too near; he betrays his knowledge of the Orphean and Pythagorean mysteries, and would certainly have desired, agreeably to their laws, that his own corpse should hereafter rest undisturbed by contact with any garments made of wool! When he discovers in Egypt the root of the mysterious rites of the Greeks, and does not even restrain himself from indulging in a little sally upon the otherwise venerated Pythagoras, because he concealed the source of his doctrine of the Metempsychosis, it is not to be wondered that during bis residence in Egypt he should have sought to penetrate into these matters, as deeply at least as was ever permitted to a foreigner. He was admitted to an actual participation in the secret rites of Sais, and saw there the principal events of the life and death of Osiris represented by night on a lake, but he keeps a safe tongue, and presumes not on this occasion to name even once the god whom he means to indicate. With him then we say: “ May the gods and heroes” of our literature “ of whom we have spoken so much, be gracious to us!
Section II. Historic Literature.
When Herodotus wrote, there already existed among the Greeks, particularly his old Asiatic countrymen, poems of divers kinds, written more than a hundred years before, some philosophical works, composed in verse or in prose, and a great number of notices relating to history. These were called narratives, histories. Herodotus himself certainly calls his work, at the very beginning, a history; but he frequently speaks of the individual parts of the same as logous; refers to what had been treated of in his earlier logoi, for instance, to the Lydian accounts, or to something still to be accomplished, as e.g. to the Assyrian; and has without doubt called himself a logographer as well as his predecessor Hecataeus.
Indeed he does the same by Aesop, because the appellation comprehended also the composer of fictitious stories. The scientific term storia avoids this impropriety of jumbling together all kinds of narrations, drawing a strong-marked line of separation, while it distinguishes investigation or searching-out from invention. But the compound forms of this word, such as historikós, and historiogaphos, were not yet in use; certainly they do not occur in Herodotus. Just as in the preceding century people began to attach a contemptuous notion of inferiority to the unostentatious title ‘Chronicle’, because the writers of the so- called chronicles seem not to have satisfied the demands of criticism (and hereby injustice was done to many of them); so the Grecian public at a later period, generally, but not universally, held in an unfavourable light all that was called Logography, because the term might lead men to place upon a par the high merit and historical research of a Herodotus or a Thucydides, with the lighter labour of those old writers, and their tendency towards the region of fable. I confess I could not accompany the Logographers much farther, though Creuzer has devoted to them a laborious and learned investigation in his celebrated work upon “The Historical Art of the Greeks in its Origin and subsequent Cultivation;” a work which justly demands a thankful acknowledgment even from those who do not assent to his line of argument, and differ widely from his results. For the sake of the bare name, to imagine a distinct class of Logographers, and upon mere theory to define the notion of Logography, must tend effectually to perplex the matter, rather than to clear it up; and if his proposed enquiry does not totally fail of its object, it follows, suspicious as the result is, that with the many other, presumed necessary, “intermediate steps” Herodotus and Thucydides also must each take his place as if he were but one of the series. The passages quoted from these ancient writers seem to me to say no more than what the first beginnings of historical writing in every other nation have equally exhibited; namely, that these writers, first called Logographers perhaps among the Ionians, were mere beginners in criticism and the art of verbal representation; that their works usually consisted of a collection of materials both dry and rough, unassisted by connexion and arrangement, and without any attempt to make the general pointe of history profitable for moral or political life. What was most interesting in them, and that of which they were most liberal, viz. the adventures of their much-loved gods and heroes, was contained in the old hymns in more beautiful and affecting language. What was new in them, as giving some account of their respective cities and people, supplied indeed employment for the memory, and was possibly useful within the sphere of its influence; but, as it pretended to no higher power of the mind, so also it claimed no distinguished respect. Certainly, could we consider the decision of so affected a judge as Dionysius to be the right standard whereby to value these compositions, one might presume that many flowers of natural beauty have perished with them. But, at all events, what a different sort of man was Herodotus! And yet he by no means imputes to himself the merit of originating the historic art on the solid foundation of proofs and facts. For before him there were some who wrote not merely from hearsay; there were several who had visited the scenes of the transactions which they related, and who, like him, could say, “Thus far extends what I saw myself, my own judgment, my own enquiry; but what comes after are the accounts of others, though accompanied with some results of my own personal observation” Others also of his own time had chosen for their labours that most beautiful subject for patriotic writing, “the history of the Persian war”. To make the matter short, Herodotus without doubt had before his eyes a small number of writers, historical and geographical, and wrote for a reading public, though not for an audience. “We say no more on that subject,” he says on one occasion “ because others have already spoken thereof; but what others have not mentioned, of that will I give an account.”
Now though the philosopher Pherecydes, or anyone else, may have been the first writer of Greek prose, and perhaps Cadmus of Miletus the first historian, yet among the many lifeless names of natives of Paros, Proconnesus, Phygalia, &c., which Dionysius enumerates to us as the oldest of all, the most celebrated is that of Hecataeus the Milesian, whose writings Herodotus (as we learn from his own mouth) had read with attention. Our thanks and acknowledgments are due to those two individuals, Sturz and Creuzer, who by collecting together the scattered fragments of the oldest historical literature of Greece, have laboured to enlighten this wearisome path. The former of the two began in 1787, with the fragments of Hellanycus, which were followed in 1789 by those of Pherecydes, to which also those of Acusilaus are attached. Creuzer has the merit of Laving joined together the remains of Hecataeus, though, alas! with the omission, ad interim, of those fragments which relate to geography, which however cannot well be separated from the rest. It is to be lamented that the entire undertaking of this indefatigable active scholar, viz. “ The collected remains of the Greek historians of the earliest antiquity,” has not advanced farther than the first volume, which contains also the scanty relics of Charon and of Xanthus.,
Section III. Hecataeus.
When the leading men of the Milesians were consulting together by what means they might be delivered from the dominion of Darius, son of Hystaspes (500 bc), Hecataeus of Miletus, son of Hegesandrus, was present at the meeting, and dared, though unsupported, to dissuade them from the enterprise, by recounting to them all the subject nations and resources of the Great King. But when this opinion was not approved by the excited assembly, consisting as it did of men who were already so deeply implicated that a bold stroke seemed less dangerous than an attempt to retreat, he then advised them at least to strain every sinew, to place their trust in their naval armaments, and, with that object, not to spare even the treasures of their temple. Notwithstanding their rejection of this advice, they would fain have had the highest prize at the cheapest rate of purchase. But soon, when everything began to go wrong, and the wanton agitator, regardless of the fate of the poor common people, was already intending as soon as possible to lead his immediate followers to a foreign settlement, either in Thrace, or even in Sardinia, then did Hecataeus once more oppose the stream of opinion and counselled Aristagoras to remain as near as possible to their own country, in case fortune might change for the better; but this time also his advice was given in vain. This conduct of his presents to our view a man remarkable for his sagacity and consistency, and gives us also sufficient grounds for fixing the date of his existence. He had at that time established his reputation, and had probably finished his travels, which therefore preceded those of Herodotus by about half a century. The year of his birth, which has been skilfully worked out for him, may not be far from the truth, but the arguments on which it rests are invalid.
Hecataeus without doubt chose to see with his own eyes, and found only erroneous opinions and indolent traditionary belief existing everywhere. One sentence of his expresses this strongly enough : “Hecataeus the Milesian relates thus. I write here what seems to me to be true. But the narratives (loyoi) of the Greeks are very numerous, and to my thinking, ridiculous”. He composed with great pains books of history, and a system of geography, which he probably accompanied with a chart. It is also a very probable idea that that brasen tablet, which contained an engraved outline of the earth with the whole sea and all the rivers, and which Aristagoras brought with him to Sparta and made the basis of his political demonstration, was constructed upon the system and delineations of Hecataeus. Hecataeus was a light in his generation. How little, nevertheless, did he satisfy his successor, who kept his eye almost too severely upon him, seldom indeed with direct blame, but more frequently expressed in general sallies against the Ionians, who professed his geographical creed. Perhaps it must ever be the case that we judge most impatiently on matters wherein we see, possibly, a little farther than others. But if Herodotus after he returned to his native land, estranged by his lengthened absence, gave loose to such language concerning the honoured man Hecataeus and his followers, it is no wonder that, in order to escape from being ridiculed in his turn, he found it advisable rather to seek out some other settlement. Not only were the little weaknesses of Hecataeus made conspicuous, as for instance, how he boasted before the priests in Egyptian Thebes of his genealogy of sixteen ancestors, of whom the sixteenth was a god! in return for which they exhibited a series of three hundred and forty-five wooden ancestral statues of successive high-priests, before which he must have been struck speechless: against him also was directed what is said about the shape of the earth, “ made round as if from a turner’s lathe”; against him the bitter and reiterated sarcasm, concerning those who would explain the inundation of the Nile, by making it flow out of the ocean; against him, lastly, the jests about the Hyperboreans, concerning whom Hecataeus seems to have related a long story, “how they dwelt above or beyond the rough Boreas, therefore free from bis assaults, in a most happy, sunny climate, and on an island as large as Sicily; how Latona was born and Apollo especially honoured there; that there was also a city there sacred to him, full of players on the lyre, who were ever playing within the temple; how the people there were most friendly disposed towards the Greeks, above all to the Athenians and Delians; for that in the grey twilight of antiquity some Greeks had been there, who, moreover, had left behind them consecrated offerings with Greek inscriptions.Perhaps also he may have aimed at Hecataeus his severe denial of the assertion, “that the Ionians of Asia Minor might lay claim to something quite superior to and different from the other Ionians.” Quite the contrary of this is proved of them, for they formed, he says, a mixture of the most distinct races, and were therefore opposed to any such pretensions on the part of the neighbouring races; among whom the weaker and oppressed Dorians of the Asiatic coast had probably to suffer their share.
But enough of this; Herodotus shews himself sufficiently inclined to quarrel with Hecataeus; he was acquainted with his writings from his youth, but had not made use of them with confidence; he was possibly indebted to him for no individual piece of information, and yet perhaps for that most important service, the determined resolution to leave his predecessor far behind, with the devotion of the best energies of life to its accomplishment
Section IV. Acusilaus. Charon.
But here we are properly at the end of all that can safely be reported concerning the store of Greek historical sources which were at the command of Herodotus. Of Acusilaus of Argos there is scarcely anything to be said with this view, and indeed almost nothing in a general view . He is numbered among the oldest of those who laboured in history; but whether his books of genealogies, as well as his accounts of gods and heroes, were made use of by Herodotus, even if they came at all into his hands, is quite uncertain. And can we know with any certainty whether the few reputed fragments of him did not belong to those spurious works, besides which Suidas was acquainted with no writings of Acusilaus ?
Now with respect to Charon of Lampsacus, he may have been senior to Herodotus, and also earlier as a writer; we need not on that account place him quite so early as is usually done, for the sake of the Olympic recitation, which has operated retrospectively on the whole subject. But whether Herodotus may have made use of his Grecian or Persian history, or whether he used any book of his at all, remains still very much a matter of question. People inconsiderately mix up with those times notions applicable to our traffic in books. The assertion of Dionysius, that Herodotus, being acquainted with Charon and Hellanicus, did not suffer himself to be deterred by both from labouring on the same materials, is also an assumption of that kind. The reign of Artaxerxes, son of Xerxes, was the period at which Charon wrote; the time therefore of his literary activity probably coincides with that of the travels of Herodotus, or even with that of his residence at Thurium. Charon belonged to the credulous and therefore popular class of historians. Plutarch gives the proofs of this in his elaborate book of grievances against our historian. Herodotus relates in his simple style the story of the Lydian Pactyas, who made the unsuccessful attempt to deliver his country from the dominion of Cyrus. The inhabitants of the Aeolic city of Cyme, at all times of high repute, determined not to give up the fugitive, much as they had to fear; they chose rather to send him away from the mainland; but having understood that the Mitylenaeans were intending to betray him for a sum of money, they exerted themselves still farther, and brought him thence to Chios. So much the more shameful appears the conduct of the Chians, who tore the man away from the holy place, and delivered him up to Cyrus, earning as their recompense a portion of land situated on the continent. Now Plutarch says, “Charon, the old man of Lampsacus, has charged neither the Mitylenaeans nor the Chians with any such crime, but thus expresses himself, ‘Now when Pactyas heard of the approach of the Persian army, he fled first to Mitylene, then to Chios, and he fell into the hands of Cyrus’. The Lampsacenian may have been a very loving neighbour who would willingly injure no one, but the faithful historian must have courage to give offence. Charon has also passed over in silence the defeat which the Ionians, in company with the Athenians and Eretrians, sustained after the burning of Sardis; whilst another author, Lysanias of Mallos, in his history of Eretria represented the whole transaction as merely a retrograde movement before a superior force. Charon writes thus, ‘ The Athenians sailed with twenty triremes to assist the Ionians, and marched against Sardis, and there got possession of everything but the royal citadel. But when they had accomplished this, they turned back again to Miletus.” With such sentiments Charon might, undisturbed, commence author at Lampsacus, and publish his insipid histories: with half as much timidity and fear of offending, Themistocles would never have succeeded in tasting the wine of Lampsacus. Now does it follow, as has been presumed from this passage, that Herodotus certainly had this work of Charon before him? I might rather think it some probability of the contrary, that Herodotus in his candid narrative has made no mention of any report of a different tendency. At all events it seems quite certain that our historian was not acquainted with Charon’s work concerning Lampsacus. “Croesus threatened,” says Herodotus, “to root up this city as it were a pine-tree”. What is meant by that? Herodotus found an explanation (but an incorrect one) of this use of the similitude, in the received opinion “that the pine-tree alone of all the trees being cut down, never again pushes forth any shoot an assertion which Gellius rejects as untrue. Now Herodotus would have learnt from Charon that Lampsacus was called in old times Pitiusa, and the most simple point of the allusion could not have escaped him. So true is Creuzer’s remark, that this slight circumstance can throw light on the passage, little as such a result could have been looked for: such however is the fact.
If it be a doubtful proceeding hastily to represent writers as original sources of information merely because they were older, still more earnestly should we try to put an end to the shameful practice of assigning positively to individual writers the year of their birth, without any sufficient proof. Some such thing takes place when in our manuals high-towering results are built up as positive truths, above and upon a tottering reed. Larchor quite arbitrarily assigned the same year for the birth of Charon and of Herodotus; Creuzers attempt also to find a place for Charon midway between Hecataeus and Herodotus, originates purely from the assumed decision of so early a date for the composition of the work of Herodotus, in which they say that Charon must have been made use of. And thus it is settled that Charon must have been thirty years junior to Hecataeus, and so born about Olymp. 65. 1, bc 520. But the year fixed upon for the birth of Hecataeus is quite a groundless fiction of Larcher. By what proofs Passow may have been induced to place Charon, as well as Xanthus, in the year 510 bc i.e. earlier in date Hecataeus (whom he places 509 b.c.), remains than quite inexplicable to my mind.
Section V. Xanthus the Lydian.
Creuzer’s enquiries concerning the Lydian Xanthus, and his opinion that he also was made use of by Herodotus, can least of all be assented to. This scholar seems to entangle himself here in unnecessary difficulties and emendations, where everything lies quite plain before him. After having on so many other occasions determined the year of birth where none at all was given, why here capriciously alter one which is given ? If we strictly follow the ordinary meaning of words in Suidas, if we allow the man not to have flourished, but to have been born at the time of the taking of Sardis (by the Ionians and Athenians), that is, 499 BC, he will then be fifteen years senior to Herodotus, and his labours as a writer fall naturally into the reign of Artaxerxes. At its commencement he was thirty-one years of age, and one matter of fact belonging to this reign is quoted from him by Strabo. As far as we know, there was nothing in the thing itself which should hinder Herodotus from having profited by his writings. And he was worth the trouble; for this Xanthus is praised by Dionysius, as one whose equal would be sought in vain in the old school of history, and who was entitled to stand forward as the founder of the historic art among his countrymen. So much the greater would be his importance if it were true that he served for a spur to Herodotus. So indeed Ephorus affirms; but however, with all due respect, we are not constrained to believe this on his mere word, when other reasons are opposed to him.
Valkenaer, on Herod has already pronounced his opinion, that the writings of Xanthus by no means formed the foundation for the Lydian history of Herodotus; for Xanthus has not said one word about the Lydians having been the progenitors of the Tyrrhenians; he also calls the only son of Atys not Tyrrhenus, but Thorrebus or Thorybus, a kindredness of sound which yet might have given occasion to the traditionary account which Herodotus follows. We might expect that Herodotus, at all events, would have remarked the silence of Xanthus on so important a matter of fact. But it may be decided on other grounds, that our historian never saw the principal work of Xanthus on Lydia. Strabo gives quotations from Xanthus, which support the hypothesis that in various tracts of Asia, where there is now dry land, there was formerly the bottom of the sea; the occurrence of hollow, shell-shaped stones and salt inland lakes led to this conclusion. There was also to be found in him a great deal about the earth’s surface in Asia having once had a different form; and also of volcanoes in that part of Lydia which, from that cause, was called “the burnt” (Katakekaumene), and which produced the finest wine. Now though he ascribed these revolutions directly to the evil powers of Typhon and Ariman, yet he may have observed accurately the matter of fact. When therefore Herodotus makes use of this expression, “that the country of Lydia contains nothing peculiarly worthy of remark,” I, for my part, can by no means see here (as Creuzer does) a thrust at Xanthus, but rather one more proof that he was unacquainted with his four books of Lydian history, and also ignorant of those remarkable operations of nature.
Herodotus, however, did not pretend to set forth the entire Lydian history, (and one sees from his occasional observations that he knew more than his connected narrative contains); else it would seem remarkable, that the name of king Alcimus, who is extolled by Xanthus as pious and peaceful in the highest degree, does not appear in his narrative. We can better pardon him for omitting the eating and drinking king Cambles, who at last, quite unawares, ate up his wife in the night, and in the morning found to his astonishment her hand in his mouth!
Section VI. Hellanicus.
Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in his Characteristic of Thucydides, draws a boundary line between the most ancient historians whose works are of an earlier date than the Peloponnesian war, and those who, though something older than the war, were still cotemporary with it and its historians; in this last class he places Xanthus, and, besides some others, the Lesbian Hellanicus. The more evident is the almost incredible thoughtlessness with which Suidas perplexes the date of that writer. Hellanicus of Mitylene is said by him to have lived at the court of Amyntas, king of Macedonia, at the same time with Herodotus (who was not born when Amyntas died), and that too in the time of Euripides and Sophocles: then again he is said to have been cotemporary with the old Hecataeus, and yet, at the same time, to have lived in the reign of king Perdiccas! Fortunately Pamphila assists us in that same passage, which also determines the number of years which Herodotus lived; Hellanicus was sixty-five years old at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, and was twelve years senior to Herodotus, having been born about 496 bc. Now supposing Lucian to be correct in his essay on “Long-lived Individuals”, in which he assigns a life of eighty-five years to Hellanicus, his life must have ended in the twentieth year of the Peloponnesian war, 411 BC, and Olymp. 92. 2. He died at Perperene, a city of the continent of Asia, over against Lesbos, whither perhaps he was led by the wish to withdraw with his grey hairs out of the reach of those calamities in which the war had dreadfully implicated his native city.
According to this then we should be more fortunate respecting Hellanicus than any other of the hitherto named historians. Both boundaries of his life would seem to be ascertained, and so the question be settled—provided it were not once more proved how little substantial reliance is to be placed upon a bel-esprit like Lucian. A Scholium upon the Frogs of Aristophanes, where mention is made of the sea-fight of Arginusae), relates, from Hellanicus, that the Athenian slaves who fought in that battle were admitted at Athens to the same right of which the unhappy Plataeans had obtained after the destruction of their city. Boeclch has already remarked that Sturz, by a misconception, refers this passage’ to the slaves who were set free by the Plataeans, after the battle of Salamis, or rather after that of Artemisium. But when this distinguished scholar adds, “This kind of slave, who took part in the naval contest, so as to be rewarded with the Plataean rights of citizenship, must have been employed earlier in the Peloponnesian war, for Hellanicus could not have been living at the time of the sea-fight of Arginusae”; then the natural signification of the Scholium, which points to the battle near the Arginusae islands, is hereby taken away merely to favour Lucian. Just as slaves fought at Marathon and gained their freedom thereby (if this account is well- grounded), so may slaves already before the battle of Arginusae have performed certain duties on board the Athenian ships; but that this civic recompense for their naval services was at least a new thing, is made clear, I think, from the importance attached to the fact in many passages in the Frogs, besides that which gave occasion to the Scholium. Thucydides also, who continued his history of the war down to the very year assumed, on Lucian s testimony, as that in which Hellanicus died, would hardly have left unmentioned so distinguished a service on the part of the slaves and their equally distinguished recompense. It does not seem advisable out of love for Lucian ever to inflict violence upon a single valid testimony.
Hellanicus therefore, after the battle of Arginusae (that is, in the year 406 BC), must have written this account, probably in his work called Atthis, when he was ninety years old. It is to be observed indeed, that the Greeks, being finely formed by nature, and living in the most favourable climate and temperature, uniting a constitutional tendency to prolonged existence with employments of a contemplative kind, in general (provided they escaped the hazards of war) were very long-lived, and even in extreme old age still retained the full use of their faculties.
Hellanicus is represented as being a simple unadorned writer, who in the form of his work accomplished nothing more than those ancient writers whom Dionysius puts into a separate class. His performances appeared in a number of little books which went deep into myths, and were devoted to his ruling passion for throwing all important events as far as possible into the background of time. A really astonishing fact gives evidence of that inclination; viz. that the whole arrangement of the Spartan commonwealth was attributed by him to the primitive Heraclidae, Eurysthenes, and Procles; not a word being said of Lycurgus! We do not, however, on that account stamp him (as Ephorus does) with the stigma of an intentional untruth, a baseness which disgraces human nature with more of shame than we are wont to attach to an artful partiality in assigning dates. But there is a certain indolence with regard to the truth, an easy resting upon current, agreeable, and sounding representations, which yet does not deserve the harshest kind of reproach. Thucydides found occasion to censure Hellanicus for inaccuracy in the chronology even of quite recent dates; Theopompus took offence at his numerous fables; Strabo accuses him of representing modem cities as ancient, and of confounding different places with each other. It would seem also that he cannot be acquitted of several most strange attempts at explaining words in Homer, although Sturz has found out, for their author, a later Hellanicus, a grammarian, and has pronounced a most weighty decision in favour of this schola of a scholar of Zenodotus. If Eustathius (as even Sturz concedes) actually recognized the old historian in Hellanicus, of whose artful subtleties he yet gives instances, this surely is of important weight. And why should he not occasionally have suggested explanations or corrections of particular passages in the first poet of the nation? he, who took the trouble of explaining the grounds on which Homer compares the Trojan elders to grasshoppers, from the story that Tithonus, brother of Priam, was transformed in his old age into a grasshopper by the goddess Hemera (Aurora) who loved him.
The enquiry, how far the prodigious variety of titles given to the writings of Hellanicus belonged to distinct works, or to portions of larger works, is not a very important one, and can hardly be brought to a decision. Where, however, no skilful connexion really exists, such a state of the question is quite a matter of indifference. On the contrary, we would gladly clear away all doubt from the enquiry whether Herodotus made use of the works of this industrious writer.
Now on this point we encounter the strongest difference of opinions. Some persons, ancient and modern, affirm that Herodotus has borrowed from his senior in years; others pretend to know that Hellanicus copied Herodotus, for instance in writing his book upon Foreign Usages; though in truth the one fact would by no means necessarily exclude the other. Meanwhile, by merely following out the evidence under discussion, I would rather maintain a fourth opinion, and assume that both wrote independently of each other. The principal works of Hellanicus will then have been composed at the time when Herodotus was on his travels, or already settled in Italy, and particularly his Atthis must have appeared as late as the Peloponnesian war, for it even contained a short history of the most important transactions which occurred between the Persian war and this. He was the only person, before Thucydides, who had occupied himself with this subject. It may still farther be conjectured, that the two writers had nothing in common, e.g. in their sources of information about Egypt. From the work of Hellanicus upon Egypt, that remarkable passage is cited, which at a later time appears frequently in the schools of the Stoics as a fundamental maxim: “Of things, some are good, others are bad, and others indifferent. The virtues, and whatever things partake of them, are good ; evil, and whatever partakes of it, is bad; whatever lies between both is indifferent, as riches, health, life, death, pleasure, pain.” Such-like notions had no place in the mind of Herodotus, but they cannot but make the personal character of Hellanicus attractive to us, as far as they proceeded originally from him. Meanwhile it is probable that Hellanicus never was in Egypt, although Plutarch, in his “ Isis and Osiris,” seems to assume the contrary. There is no general report of his having travelled for information: what then could Herodotus have learnt from him concerning that country, so hard to be understood? But to the question: it is related by Hellanicus that Amasis became king of Egypt by means of a beautiful wreath of flowers, which he sent as a birthday gift to Partamis the Egyptian king. Partamis, gratified therewith, invited him to court, and from that time treated him as his friend; and when afterwards there arose a rebellion against him in Egypt, he sent Amasis as his general to suppress it; he chose however rather to profit by the hatred of the Egyptians towards Partamis, and was raised by them to be king. Herodotus makes no mention of the incident through which Amasis is said to have become known to the king; but the main point is that he calls the dethroned king Apries, and notices no variations on this point. The fact too occurs within that period of which Herodotus observes, “From this time we know with perfect certainty what has taken place in Egypt”. Should we not therefore be deciding in direct opposition to what is probable, if we were to reckon the Egyptiaca of Hellanicus among the sources whence Herodotus drew his information ?
Hellanicus, moreover, is to be remarked as the man who has probably contributed most towards drawing the Italian history into the net of Grecian historical tradition, from which it is now again set free. He readily received and propagated whatever fables the Italian-Greeks invented; e.g. that the name of Italy properly means Cow-land or Heifer’s-land (Vitulia), from a cow which there escaped from Hercules, as he was driving through it the herd of Geryones; that Aeneas in company with Ulysses came to Italy and founded Rome, which was so named from Roma, one of the maidens of Troy. With what little thought may he have twisted the knots, which have cost us so much labour to undo! Did we still possess his Trojan histories, in which he treated of the flight of Aeneas so copiously, we might perhaps learn what an accidental circumstance it was which cast the Trojans near the site of Rome. As if the fable of the ancient Ilia were not sufficient, we find it stated in the middle ages, that an individual named Xanthus led the Trojans even as far as Xanten on the Rhine! In Hellanicus might be looked for the woof, which, having been richly interwoven by Diocles of Peparethus, formed in the hands of Fabius Pictor materials for the introductory history of Rome. We would not on that account reproach Hellanicus as a fabricator, though we must say that he easily found out proofs upon the slightest occasion. Thus it was that he discovered that men in old times lived a thousand years, and is accordingly cited as authority thereupon by Josephus. In like manner he and Pherecydes learnt that Homer and Hesiod were cousin-germans, and descended in the tenth generation from Orpheus. Herodotus understood such matters better, and it is hardly credible that he should not even have cast a single look of reproach upon a man who must in so many ways have crossed his path. One thing however he would thankfully have taken from him, the reckoning of the years according to the succession of the priestesses in the temple of Juno at Argos; Thucydides himself did not disdain to pay regard to this list; how much more was some such support necessary for the long unresting career of Herodotus! The list of conquerors at the Spartan festival of the Carneia, as given by Hellanicus, was also, on the same grounds, worthy of all consideration. But here, however, one point may be strongly urged towards proving that absolutely no connexion will be found to have existed between Herodotus and the writings of Hellanicus. One of the books of Hellanicus was his Photonis, a work relating to the ancient Phoroneus, son of Inachus, king of Argos, who is said to have been the first who united in one city the previously dispersed population. In this work the author represented the Tyrrhenians as Pelasgians, who, being expelled from their country by the Greeks, had arrived at Italy by sea. Herodotus would not, had he seen this statement, have dared to pass it over in silence, and, without farther scruple, to represent the Tyrrhenians as descendants of the Lydians.
Finally, the Persian histories of Hellanicus would have been better adapted than those of Herodotus to a recitation at Olympia. Herodotus does not conceal the fact that the Naxians had destined their four ships to assist the Persians, and that one of the commanders of these vessels was solely the cause of their joining the Greeks in opposition to the command of their state. Hellanicus on the contrary, and after him Ephorus, reports (the one mentioning six, the other five ships), that the Naxians voluntarily came to the assistance of the Greeks.
Section VII. Pherecydes. Dionysius of Miletus. Concluding observation.
The historian Pherecydes, much younger than the famous philosopher of the name, was also some years junior to Herodotus, and died in the year 396 BC. The subject of his historical writings is suspiciously circumstanced for the enquirer. His Autocthonesmay be considered as probably the first division of the histories, which formed his principal work. He also wrote ten books entitled Attic Archaeology, being himself a resident at Athens, although a native of the little island of Leros, to which he has dedicated one work expressly. A well-founded conjecture has thus combined the assertions which represent him at one time as a Lerian, at another as an Athenian. Imposing however as the titles of his works are, it seems as if these store-rooms were filled principally for the use of Apollodorus. His fragments, as far as can be concluded from their contents, represent Pherecydes in such a light that one scarcely dares to reckon him among writers of history in the proper sense of the term. Certainly he does not trouble himself with cosmogony in its true sense, nor with the private histories of the gods; but the gods are just as much made by him to busy themselves with the earth. However, heroic adventures, especially those of Perseus and Hercules; the stories of ancient founders of cities, as Pelops and Cadmus; and among the rest genealogies constructed for the purpose of glorifying distinguished families, e.g. that of Cimon (in which he always joined on the first link of the chain of ancestors to the clouds); all this, and in short everything which filled up his writings, is not history, but something which unceremoniously clothes itself with her beautiful appearance.
One might be tempted to leave unnoticed Dionysius of Miletus, had not Creuzer treated him with remarkable attention. He considers him to have made an onward step from the mere task of collecting myths, to that of reducing them to order; he looks upon him as the inventor of at least an unity of form, as one also, who in his account of Trojan and Persian transactions, and especially in those which occurred since Darius, applied historical facts in a practical and philosophic manner; he therefore constituted an intervening stage which the human mind was obliged to pass through, in order to arrive at Herodotus, who now rose to unity of matter also. This pretended necessity of intervening stages might well be put an end to at a time when even the principal and more indispensable stage, which led over from Herodotus to Thucydides, threatens to fall away. The Milesian Dionysius is not once brought forward by Dionysius of Halicarnassus in his list of ancient historians, with whom he must have been cotemporary. Might not this have been because is peculhiar merit belonged to the field of mythology? on which point alone Diodorus has made use of him.
To these historical names might be added many others, and we might still discuss the point whether or not Herodotus may have made use of this or that author. But enough has already been done. As far as concerns the authors which have been expressly named, it has been shown that Hecataeus alone was made use of by him, and how far he may have read his works. There was no great writer among them, no enquirer, no accurate chronologist who might have furnished him with a skeleton of the history. The scanty unproved apparatus of Hellanicus was of little use to him. It presented to him mere genealogies, which connected famous men of might with heroes and gods; Herodotus endeavoured to bring them under a certain law, whilst he reckoned three generations to a hundred years, a reckoning to which the Egyptian priests conducted him, or before him, Hecataeus. He has without a doubt adapted to this standard the few numerical statements which apply to distant periods; and the tolerably fixed point to which he attaches them is this, “until my time”. By this expression he certainly understands (as if addressing his Italian countrymen) the time of the composition of his work, that is (according to all reasonable considerations), the age of the Peloponnesian war. But why has Larcher here again prevented his historian from following undisturbed his simple method of proceeding? “Just as he is said to have reckoned by stadia of different length, so also may Herodotus have counted by generations of different duration. Among the Spartans, for instance, generations might not be reckoned at thirty-three years, but at six, or even seven and thirty, because Lycurgus ordained that they should not marry before that age.” It is a strange proceeding to employ in this way for chronological purposes a mere calculation made by the help of family-registers. But this very order of Lycurgus is unsupported by proof, and is in itself improbable; and even if Lycurgus did so ordain, he would thus give a positive proof that, before the time of hie legislation, men married earlier; the oldest genealogies therefore of the Spartans must certainly be reckoned shorter, which must be a great drawback upon the advantage which Larcher thence expected for his chronological frame-work. Volney has already called him to order on that account at the end of his work, which is tolerably favourable towards Larcher, but will never be of much importance in itself.
Herodotus himself was in truth the voucher for his own work, originating and fashioning it himself. The mythology in which his predecessors buried their merit could not assist him; the crude narrative, dryly scattered therein, could not satisfy him. In points of history he would fain see for himself, as he did in the various countries which his bright observant eye had explored. His mind, perfect master of what he wished to represent, pressed onwards to what was actually present, turning away with cautious reverence from the grey mist of the past. Indeed the commencement of his work at once proves this; and I am about to give a view of its progressive development, in order to shew with what thoughtfulness and skill it is compacted, how great, amidst all his mistakes, was his holy striving after truth, and how triumphantly it was attained in the last part of his work, as it lies before us.
CHAPTER THE SEVENTH.
A GLANCE AT THE PLAN AND EXECUTION OF THE HISTORICAL WORK OF HERODOTUS.
Suction I. Exposition of his design. Historical accounts of Croesus till the death of Cyrus.
When Herodotus, in his newly-chosen home at Thurium, at an advanced, but green old age, reduced to form the materials which he had collected for his work, he declared it at the very beginning to be his purpose to write an account of the principal transactions and exploits of Greeks and barbarians, especially their reciprocal dealings with each other. But his explicit renunciation of the stories of remote antiquity at once forbids us to expect therein any Argonautic expeditions, any conquests of Troy by Hercules or Agamemnon; or, on the other side, such ancient incursions of Asiatics into Europe as was that of the Mysians and Teucrians, who advanced through Thrace as far as the Peneus. On the other hand, he gives absolutely no grounds for the commonly received representation, that he never intended to go beyond the Persian wars which were waged by Darius and his son Xerxes. In my opinion, he even intended to relate the expedition of Cimon, the great Egyptian war of the Athenians, and, possibly, the interference of the Persians in the Peloponnesian war, had his life been extended. The Greeks of Alexandria divided what they found finished into books called after the nine Muses ; since even the uncompleted performance had all the value of a work of art, rounded off in all its parts, and concluded with thoughtful deliberation.
In the announcement of his historical design, Herodotus takes no notice of any previously existing models; his wish is, by means of the information he has acquired, to preserve the histories of men from the destruction with which time threatened them, and not to allow the wonderful exploits performed by Greeks and barbarians to want their due celebrity—(they seemed then to him not to have been celebrated, or at least not worthily)—and in the next place his discourse was to be of the causes of their mutual animosity. In relation to these causes he quotes merely the opinion of the Persians, remarking the point at which the Phoenicians differed from them. Now the Persians looked upon Asia and Europe, that is, the portions of the world at that time inhabited by the Persians and by the Greeks, as two discordant communities, living from old time in a spirit of bad neighbourhood. They inflicted insults and injuries by turns, they carried off women and golden fleeces, till at last the Greeks pushed the matter beyond all bounds, and for the sake of a single woman destroyed a whole state of Asia by means of a confederate force. Of all this Herodotus chooses to know nothing more; the truth thereof is left to depend upon itself; the Grecian accounts of it he does not once consider worth relating. “Croesus only,” he concludes, “is with certainty known to me as the man who began to inflict injuries upon the Greeks”. From him he commences; and therefore at the very outset he makes the declaration, that he trusted no accounts of greater antiquity than the life-time of his grandfather, for any intelligible connected history.
Therefore, if no account be taken of traditionary legends, but only of actual information, Croesus was the first Asiatic who injured the Greeks by the subjugation of those of them who dwelt in Asia; he himself however, afterwards wished for assistance from Greece against the suddenly-rising power of Persia. The domestic condition of Athens, at that time involved in contests between Pisistratus and his political opponents, could promise him but little; he therefore turned his thoughts to Sparta, which was then beginning to assume the predominance in the Peloponnesus, all of which is historically vouched for. An alliance was entered into, and help was promised; but the power of Lydia broke to pieces, before either Sparta could take a part in the proceedings, or Egypt, still earlier pledged by promises and obligations, or Babylon itself. “So fared it with the dominion of Croesus, and the first subjugation of Ionia”. The first, or Lydian portion of the history, is ended.
Next must follow the history of the Persian conqueror, and this naturally leads, after an incidental mention of the ancient Assyrian empire, to Media, which, though formerly subject to Assyria, had liberated itself, and, at a later period, even subdued the fallen Assyria, already reduced to its own proper limits. Before this subject, however, is placed a separate treatise on the Assyrian history. Now after he has related by what means Cyrus, son of the daughter of Astyages, overturned the empire of the Medes (which had existed a hundred and twenty-eight years), and has delineated the character of the founder of the new dynasty, our historian turns back to the main thread of his history, the perils which the Greeks encountered by means of the barbarians.
Here we find a sketch of the colonies on the front of Asia, and, before all the rest, of the delightful Ionia, with uncommon praises of its climate; yet at the same time the empty pretensions of the Ionians to superior purity and nobility of descent are noticed with that sort of ease with which only a neighbour can remark the foibles of neighbours, but with such cutting derision, that one could hardly have advised Herodotus to publish his history (as Suidas assumes he did) in Ionia. Cyrus, who was meditating more extensive conquests, among which Egypt is specified, did not consider the Ionian cities of so much consequence as to undertake their subjugation in person. Repulsed from Sparta, which gave them empty words, deserted also by Miletus, which was occupied with its own embarrassments, the Ionians, together with their allies of Aeolis, succumbed, or honorably preserved their liberty in distant countries. Thus the Phocians now became the founders of Velia in the land of Oenotria, but by no means of Massilia, since it had been colonized by them a half-century earlier; a fact for which we may, once for all, give credit, if not to the silence of Herodotus, yet to the direct assertions of Antiochus, Aristotle, and Timaeus; nay, I might venture to say, even of Thucydides. The islands, though at first careless of what was passing, at last voluntarily gave themselves up, if, that is, Herodotus does not here express himself too strongly; it seems that the Persians at first granted them an alliance of mere friendship, (a condition always dangerous for the weaker party), but, when the Persians could command the naval strength of the Phoenicians, they all passed into a state of subjection.
Carians, Caunians, and Lycians, were all subjugated; the last of whom had not belonged to Lydia. Together with the Carians the Dorian cities also submit without any resistance. The Carians were of high reputation in very early days, and paid their required service not in tribute, but in ships; now however they did nothing worthy of their reputation.
Whilst the king’s general accomplished this, the exploits of Cyrus himself, who reduced nation after nation in Upper Asia, conduct the historian, who purposely passes over much of this war of subjugation, to the most arduous enterprise, the conquest and capture of Babylon. The description of the city, the country, and the manners of the people, forms a detailed episode. The Massagetae, in whose country Cyrus finishes his career, bring us to the east of the Caspian sea. Herodotus, who certainly was no superficial enquirer, is yet found here to have been very ill-informed concerning the Araxes. He represents this river, which rises in Curdistan, the country of the Matieni, and empties itself into the Caspian on its west side, as doing this only with one of its arms, whilst the main stream runs rapidly still farther to the east, where it forms the southern boundary of the country of the Massa get, and at last, dividing into thirty-nine streams, loses itself in the marshes of the distant east! If the account of this river, which had not ceased to flow, could become so perplexed, it is not perhaps too bold to suggest in connexion therewith, that the traditionary account of Cyrus's death in the country of the Massagetae might also, under the influence of time and distance, have lost something of its truth. At all events, the story of the birth and early days of Cyrus is very suspicious. We need only compare the account of Ctesias, who places Cyrus out of all relationship to the royal house of Media; and then make due allowance for a fiction by means of which the people of the east were wont to console themselves upon great political misfortunes. It consisted in this, that they persuaded themselves and others, that the victorious foreign conqueror was yet properly a scion of the old native royal house, which had lost the supreme power through him. It softened the disgust of the Medes at being ruled over by the Persians, when they learnt from their Magi that Cyrus, in a wonderful manner, was the grandson of their old king Astyages. In this way also the Egyptians assumed that their subjugator, Cambyses, was, in secret, the son of a daughter of their king Apries; thus the government of the foreigner actually took the place of the legitimate family, which had been destroyed through the usurpation of the warrior Amasis. Since, however, Amasis had once been a king, even his dead body might not be dishonoured by Cambyses, and they conceived the idea, if it should come to that, of substituting the dead body of some common person to bear the violence of the madman. In these two cases Herodotus, meanwhile, saw through the hollowness of the pretence, but not so in the history of Cyrus. Alexander, the destroyer of the Persian kingdom, shared the same lot with its founder. The people of the east pretend that Escander Dsulcarnein (Alexander the horned, i. e. the mighty) was in fact sprung from the royal blood of the east, and by no means rose from a mere foreigner of the west to be the lord of Asia. The last Persian king save one, Darab, son of Baheman, married the daughter of Philip, king of Macedonia, but from some personal cause of dislike sent her back again, though pregnant, to her father, who brought up her child and called him the son of Philip. But when Alexander learnt his true descent, he made war upon his brother Dara (Darius Codomannus), and placed himself on the throne as the eldest son and genuine heir of Darab. But this practice of self-deception is not confined to the families of the east. The Romans had certainly no smartings of servitude to conceal, yet in unpleasant circumstances they had recourse to it as a consolation, however slight; either after an unsuccessful battle Silvanus had cried aloud from the wood that “one more on the part of the enemy than of the Romans had fallen” or, if things went still more perversely, “the enemy had assuredly received their recompence from other nations!” as, for instance, the armies of Porsenna and of Brennus. With us Germans, when matters go very badly for the country, the saying, “It is still worse in other countries than with us,” is repeated without any ornament of figure or colouring; and, moreover, with as little reflection.
Herodotus was acquainted, altogether, with three legendary accounts of Cyrus besides his own, all of them very beautiful, and suited to human nature, and which, for that very reason, were made use of for the legend of the early days of Romulus. If it was difficult for Herodotus to resist the temptation to relate this legend; so, on the contrary, the other traditions deterred him by their vainglorious character, because they probably accumulated upon the name of Cyrus unlimited conquests which were never performed, or actions whose fame was due to his successors. Xenophon's Cyropaedia itself justifies us in drawing this conclusion.
Section II. Cambyses in Egypt.
After Cyrus comes Cambyses. That the very first remark upon his reign should relate to the Ionians and Aeolians (whom he looked upon as slaves attached to the soil bequeathed to him by his father) resulted, as is perceived from his mode of expression, not so much from the domestic relations of the historian as from the problem he had undertaken to work out. Whatever had taken place in time past between Greeks and barbarians, that he wished to give an account of. As soon as Persia had threatened European Greece itself, it becomes an object of importance to bring prominently forward the subject of the vast strength and resources of that empire. The lengthened account of Egypt therefore, as a part of that empire, belongs strictly to his subject.
But in handling Egyptian transactions be is upon his guard, showing himself here also the true historian, ever thinking of his office, and not blindly disclosing everything. At the very beginning be declines meddling with the history of the gods; for as to what concerns the gods, “he has no desire (provided the connexion of his narrative should not necessarily demand it) to mention anything more than their respective names; these, being generally known, he will speak of, because the coming in contact with them treads not too nigh upon any mystery.” Here, however, whether inward aversion or external religious obligation were the chief motive, or a sense of the responsible calling which he had taken upon himself, here fortunately he fixed his limits. Now though, even at the outset, he may in some measure perplex himself with the explanation of natural phenomena, in his eager refutation of men who at least succeeded not worse than himself, yet his physical description of the country, with its nourishing and civilizing river, is so true, and so very eloquent in the details, that we would fain lay aside the measuring scale of modem science. We would only now and then look for the historian himself, who soon again withdraws himself from our sight among the many curious subjects which engage his attention, till, at last, he disappears altogether, absorbed in that energetic devotion with which he now passes on to the history of ancient Egypt.
He certainly does what he can in order to distinguish the degrees of probability. “Here ends,” he says, “ what have myself seen, judged of, and enquired into”. He confesses, that thenceforth he has been able to learn only from documents which he met with, and could only repeat what the priests communicated to him, and what he certainly for the most part took on credit. Had he applied to these things also some of the doubts which he occasionally communicates concerning the poems of Homer, he yet could have done no more than relate incredulously what he now does in implicit faith. Moreover, his talent for observation is ever awake, wherever he can approach the correction of mere individual details. On the whole, certainly his feeling of veneration predominates. But the endless series of kings, the equally long succession of high-priests in Thebes, and the prodigious amount of years, imposed too much upon him. For, not to speak at all of the history of their gods, their history of the human race extended to above 11,000 years, while the Greeks, even if they commenced their accounts with their youngest gods, reached but a little beyond one poor thousand years; since Bacchus lived about 1060 years before Herodotus; Hercules only 900; and as to Pan, the historian thinks he must even place him after the Trojan war, i.e. at 800 years from his time. “How t hen was it to be supposed that the Egyptians should ever have taken anything from the Greeks? Was it not much more likely that these should have borrowed all from them?” The observation, that resemblances will form themselves, without any influence tangible to history, by the mere power of common human nature, seems not to have occurred to Herodotus; and his constant attendant, the Greek interpreter, who is never suffered to be out of our sight, certainly contributed his share towards the strengthening of a faith which flattered the vanity of the Egyptian Greeks of the Delta, who, far from being estranged from the soil of their birth, could glory still more in having thus, gained a settlement in the proper motherland of Greece.
Meanwhile with the twelve kings, the constructors of the Labyrinth, and Psammetichus, one of the twelve, who opened the inhospitable country to the Greeks, the true time of history began; since from this date the testimony of other nations is found to agree with that of Egypt. Without despising the earlier accounts, he now speaks of the Egyptian history as one which from, this time may be depended upon; already are the Grecian temples able to obtain for themselves such consideration that Pharaoh Necho sent the dress in which he had conquered the Syrians to the temple of the Branchidae, in the territory of Miletus.
After this most important episode is finished, (which forming in its details an eighth part of the work, ends at last with Grecian interests and the gracious reception given to the Greeks, especially to those of Asia, partly as settlers and partly as traders, from the time of Amasis), the history now turns back to the point at which it commenced. Cambyses takes the field against Amasis, and the Greeks of Ionia and Aeolis are obliged to furnish ships for the expedition. Now one might readily suppose that the son of Cyrus, who had already directed his fathers thoughts towards Egypt, had sufficient inducements for the attack in his own ambition. Egypt had also given him provocation by its alliance with Croesus against Persia, the consequences of which were defeated only by the precipitancy of the Lydian. But the spirit of the time, framing its policy upon the influence of persons rather than things, required a more individual motive. Herodotus places for our choice the different accounts over against each other. Let us however consider now for a moment. It was only forty years before the birth of Herodotus, when Cambyses invaded Egypt, and when a townsman of Herodotus, Phanes the Halicarnassian, was particularly active in the enterprise, with many men from Ionia and oAelis reluctantly engaged therein; and yet three different accounts cross one another concerning the occasion of the expedition, and two concerning the means of supplying water for the army on its passage through Arabia. This fact, if teaching could bear fruit where the will is opposed to it, might teach us, that genuine history is not so old as we are apt to assume.
Section III. An Enquiry concerning the Military Expedition of Cambyses in Egypt. Also concerning Phoenicia and Cyprus.
The account of this proceeding, though one of the most important in ancient history, is throughout defective and obscure; and, if we are not very much mistaken, Herodotus must here, in some unlucky hour, have held fast to oral traditionary accounts, and neglected to investigate for himself. The expedition appears, in his narrative, below its real importance; it had in view at the same time, as we may conclude from sure indications, Phoenicia and Cyprus, which even appear to have been its inducement; and it was by no means a mere invasion of the peaceful and selfdefending Egypt; it arose out of an older rivalry between the commercial policy of the last Egyptian dynasty and the ambitious views of the Lords of Asia. We here thankfully turn our attention to the penetrating investigations of Gesenius concerning Phoenician affairs, and undertake also to fill up an hiatus which, according to our judgment, he has left.
The Phoenicians had of old gained a firm footing in Cyprus. Though we may attach no value to the father of Virgil’s Dido,
That is, of New Tyre,
which stood on an island.
yet it can be shown that Cyprus contained ancient Phoenician settlements; and without doubt Cyprus, as the Chittim of Isaiah and Ezekiel, was possessed by the Phoenicians, being so called from Citium the most important city of the island. At the time when Samaria had fallen into the hands of Assyria, the conqueror, Shalmaneser, turned his arms also against Tyre, the desertion of Citium to him, and probably of the whole island, affording him the occasion. Sidon also, Ace and Old Tyre itself surrendered, and furnished sixty ships to their oppressor for the conquest of the fortress of the island. The Tyrians, nevertheless, beat Shalmaneser’s fleet, and even brought the Cyprians to submission; he shut them out, however, still for five years from the mainland, and, their supply of water from thence being cut off, they were forced to use such as rose in wells which they dug. The ancient might and strength of the Tyrians, for good as well as for evil, is hence made evident, as well as the fact that the Tyre which at that time exercised dominion, was to be looked for in the island. With no less sagacity Gesenius has raised the grounds which make it probable that the Chaldeans also, the successors to the power of Assyria, never got possession of the insular Tyre, and that Nebuchadnezzar was obliged to relinquish his enterprise after a siege of thirteen years, without having effected a real and proper subjugation. Yet he had successfully repulsed the Egyptians, who at that time, following up the commercial impulse excited by Psammetichus, coveted the trading ports and forests of the Phoenicians. The battle of Carchemish decided the matter; and Chaldea, in possession of the Phoenician continent, must, without any formal conquest, have yet acquired an influence over Tyre itself.
It is certain that all Phoenicia, together with Cyprus, voluntarily surrendered itself to the Persian empire; but the assumption that this took place in the days of Cyrus, is at all events without proof, and, to my thinking, contrary to all probability. That it is so stated in Xenophon’s Cyropaedia, is no proof, for Egypt also is there reckoned among the conquests of Cyrus. This could hardly be for the sake of contradicting Herodotus (for it is not proved that the author of the Cyropaedia was acquainted with his work), but because Xenophon erected his historical romance on the basis of another tradition. There is, however, nothing therein like an assertion that the continent of Phoenicia, which submitted to the powerful hand of Cyrus, had previously belonged to the Babylonian kingdom. An unpeopled country, like Palestine, might well be obliged to follow whither the fate of the empire (and that of the old inhabitants now brought back) led, though scarcely in the first year of Kores. But that this was not everywhere the case, is shown by the Greek states in Asia Minor, which only by compulsion transferred to their conqueror the surrender of themselves which they had made to Croesus. Herodotus thinks that the Phoenicians were by no means among the nations who were subdued by Cyrus; it much rather follows from what he has said, that in the days of Cyrus Egypt continued its efforts for the acquisition of Phoenicia and Cyprus. But a short time before Apries proceeded against Sidon, and engaged in a naval contest with the Tyrians’. Herodotus does not mention the result, but Diodorus relates that the battle took the Tyrians and Cyprians by surprise, and that Apries came off victorious. Amasis also, who dethroned Apries, adhered to this plan of the fallen dynasty, and must have approached still nearer to his object. Herodotus informs us that he captured Cyprus, and indeed he adds (repeating after the vainglorious Egyptians) that he the first of all men conquered and made tributary this island. Herodotus knew not, or at least considered not, what the finishing of his Assyrian history would have forced upon his attention—that for the last hundred years a war against Cyprus was synonymous with a war against the state of Tyre. Though it would have been a war against Cyrus himself, if the account given by Herodotus, “that the Phoenicians and Cyprians (a combination now complete and intelligible) voluntarily submitted to the Persians,” were to be understood as applicable to Cyrus. But it is first given on occasion of the Egyptian expedition of Cambyses ; and that this acquisition of territory belonged to that transaction, is shewn (without insisting upon the incidental expression, “Cyrus and Cambyses had subdued Asia,”) by the flattering address of the royal council in Persia, who placed Cambyses above Cyrus because he possessed all the kingdom of his father, and had gained besides Egypt and the sea. Here can be meant only Phoenicia and Cyprus, and perhaps the mastery over the Greek islands on the coast of Asia, which was not actually exercised till the time of Cambyses and Darius. Then it was that these naval powers, united to that of Egypt, gave to Persia the command of the sea. Even Thucydides leads us to this conclusion, who in his compressed account, passing over Cambyses, makes Darius Hystaspes accomplish the subjection of the Greek islands, because the naval force of the Phoenicians was subject to his control, and therefore not to Cyrus, of whom he had just been speaking. Darius was also the first who subjugated the kingdom of Polycrates.
But this was certainly standing at the time of the war with Egypt, when Cyrus was still living, though constantly employed in Upper Asia. Not only was the alliance with Croesus entered into, but Amasis had also held out the hand of friendship to the other opponents of Persia, to Polycrates of Samos, and to the Spartans. He moreover took Cyprus from the Tyrians. Matters being thus circumstanced, no other alternative remained for the Phoenicians, after the breaking out of hostilities subsequent to the death of Cyrus and Amasis, but to do homage to one or other of the great powers; to strengthen the naval force of Egypt, or create one for Persia. They chose to belong, upon favourable terms, to that power from which they could suffer no annoyances. Unencumbered with satraps, they retained like the Cyprians their old kings; only Tyre was obliged to concede precedence in rank to her mother-city Sidon. Respect was paid to length of standing, after the Persian fashion, on this point also; the Sidonian king sat uppermost in Xerxes' council of princes, and next to him the king of Tyre. The Great King sailed only in a Sidonian galley; the ships of Sidon were esteemed the best sailing-vessels, her crews the most expert mariners.
Section IV. Of Cambyses until Darius son of Hystaspes.
The neighbouring portion of Libya, together with the states of Cyrene and Barce, also adopted the policy of a voluntary surrender. They saved themselves by this means, besides the distress of war, from the usual punishment for opposition, especially the throwing down of their city walls. They continued also without doubt in their customary relations, except that they paid an annual donation to the Persians, until Darius, son of Hystaspes, by means of measurement and valuation, reduced all the lands of the empire to the sorely-felt equality of his cataster.
The other schemes of conquest formed by Cambyses (who from his childhood was subject to epilepsy) failed of success. The Phoenicians would not serve against the Carthaginians, and the king did not find it advisable to force them. The expedition against the southern Ethiopians, in which the Greeks took no share, was inconsiderately undertaken, without any provision for the subsistence of an army; and the historian, with particular seriousness, remarks, “that the king seems not to have been at all aware what a thing it is to lead an army to the boundaries of the earth.” When his troops in the sandy desert began to devour one another, he turned about, and on his return to Memphis dismissed the Greeks, that they might sail home; so steadily is the connexion between Greeks and barbarians everywhere kept up. Of the detachment of fifty thousand men, who were sent westward against the Ammonians and their temple, not a man ever returned; they found their graves in the sand of the desert. What is here related, that on the Ammonian oases (called by the Greeks, “Islands of the blessed”) some Samians were dwelling, sounds certainly very improbable; one should quite as much have expected to find Samos as Samians here. On another occasion at least, and in relation also to Samos, the purely accidental similarity of names bas manifestly jumbled together distinct narratives. The Greeks of the Hellespont and Pontus made the national god of the Getae to be a native of Samos, simply because he was called Zamolxis; and in order to account for the belief of the Getae in the immortality of the soul, they still farther represented him to have been a scholar of Pythagoras. Herodotus acknowledges the unsuitableness of the assumption, without, as it seems, having discovered the occasion of it.
A war, which was waged between Samos and Sparta at the same time with the conquest of Egypt (in which war Corinth also took part against Samos), carries away the historian to a digression, which he himself at last seems to have thought too long. The attractive histories of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, and of Periander, tyrant of Corinth, form parts of it. On the whole, these circumstances certainly belonged to the plan of his history; so also did the policy of Polycrates, who, before the reign of Cyrus, exercised authority even over many Grecian cities on the Asiatic continent, and, on the cessation of his Egyptian alliance, having become a friend of Persia, voluntarily offered Cambyses assistance against Egypt, in order to get rid of some turbulent individuals from his own territory; so, more especially, the description of bis despotic rule, which gave occasion to the first, but unsuccessful, expedition of the Spartans to Asia (i.e. Samos). Concerning this proceeding Herodotus seems to have derived his information in Laconia from a grandson of one of the Spartans who fell with honour on that occasion.
He now proceeds with his history according to Persian and Grecian accounts, such as he could get them; we see the house of the founder of the empire expire at the death of Cambyses; then follows the period of the Magian usurpation, mild and exempt from the payment of tribute; after which the dominion of Darius falls with double weight when he subjected every country to a regular contribution in gold or natural produce, Persia alone being exempted from tribute, and some few countries permitted to send gifts. In the enumeration of the twenty tribute-departments we have to remark again of that which stands first in the list, that the Ionians and Aeolians form but one division; the Dorians were not even named on this occasion, but are probably comprehended under the head of Carians. Cyprus appears, as well as Palestine, in the same department with Phoenicia.
The mention of the twentieth department, the Indian, gives an occasion to the historian of putting together the few notices or rumours which fell in his way concerning this boundary-land of the world. These certainly appear now-a-days to be singularly defective, and the observation of Schlegel seems worthy of attention, that the dominion of Persia could hardly have extended into India Proper, because in the catalogue of the army of Xerxes, which certainly includes Arabs mounted on camels, and probably Indians on horseback and in chariots, yet no Indian war-elephants appear; nor are any found at all in the Persian armies until the battle of Arbela, when fifteen were placed in array against Alexander. To his dogma about “the ends or limits of the world,” and their peculiar productions, we are indebted here for some information concerning the Arabians.
But to return to the principal object: it is shewn how Darius obtains consideration for his new government by himself inflicting the punishment of death upon one of the seven who in common had put an end to the usurped domination of the Magi. The previous conduct, as well as the fate of Oroetes, had already shown the internal weakness of the empire. For he who from the time of Cambyses had been governor of Sardis (a government which included several satrapies under its jurisdiction), had, about the time of the death of Cambyses, at his own risk, humbled the power of Polycrates, the favourite of fortune, who, if it had not been for Persia, would certainly have acquired the mastery over the Grecian seas; nay, bad treacherously decoyed him, though the friend of Persia, into his hands, and caused him to die an infamous death. He had moreover killed a neighbouring satrap, and had made himself so far lord of Phrygia, Lydia, and Ionia, during the Magian intrusion, that he even paid no allegiance or honour to the new king Darius. By artful surprise only could Darius venture to attack Oroetes; he then reduced the power of Samos by force of arms.
In the train of Polycrates, when he was thus decoyed to his fate, was found the most famous physician of his time, Democedes of Croton, who after the death of his lord, was kept in bonds as a slave. He now restores Darius to health, he cures the queen Atossa, daughter of Cyrus, and manages through her to turn towards Greece the mind of the king, who was desirous of raising the new dynasty by conquests. He readily consents to sail in company with Persian spies to different points of the coast of Greece, in order to draw plans of it, until at last he escapes from them, as he hoped he should do, on arriving at his beloved home. The rebellion of Babylon checked the king's proceedings against the Greeks of Europe. But that after the conclusion of that rebellion Darius should have marched, not against Greece, but against Scythia, shews perhaps that we must not estimate the influence of the physician too highly. Everybody wishes to be thought to have had a share in the political events of his day.
Section V. The Scythian Expedition of Darius. Its importance considered.
Cyrus had thrown open the eastern, Cambyses the southern parts of the earth. With Darius begins a knowledge of the north, rude and ignorant, with the single exception of the Scythians. The modest accounts of the Scythians, which placed their origin only a thousand years before Darius, afford us, by the meagreness of their contents, a scale for measuring the humble pretensions of this race. The splendid narratives of their Greek neighbours on the Pontus are to be entirely excluded; for according to them, Hercules, as he was driving away the oxen of Geryones to the western ocean, had come into these cold regions, and became the vigorous progenitor of the Scythian family.
Herodotus here judiciously gives, instead of these stories, a view of the Scythian nation according to their places of abode and mode of living, as he learnt them from those Greeks on the shores of the Black Sea, who gained their knowledge by intercourse of trade and personal enquiry. Here he is carried away again by the fanciful notions of a certain Aristeas (which at least cannot be refuted) to the “boundaries of the earth,” even beyond the north wind, up to the Hyperboreans, of whom the Delian priesthood professed to give an account. Here therefore a general delineation of the earth, and some reflections upon the so-called divisions of the world, might reasonably be expected to find a place. However he soon turns back his discourse to the Scythians, in whose excessively cold country (to use his own singular expression) “you make mud, not by the pouring out of water, but by kindling a fire”. But its inhabitants, he says, have found out the greatest of human discoveries, namely, “that no enemy can escape from them, and yet they can escape from every enemy”.
Now the Scythian expedition was undertaken from a restless desire of conquest, but under the pretext, for it was but a pretext, of revenging an ancient incursion of the Scythians, who more than a hundred years before had overrun Media and ruled all Asia for twenty-eight years. During its execution, the Asiatic Greeks, Ionians, Aeolians, and Hellespontians, as being acquainted with the country, were obliged to be especially active in the service of the fleet; a Samian formed the bridge over the Bosphorus, not far from Byzantium; the Ionians had to sail two days’ voyage up the Danube, and also to throw a bridge there over the river. The route of the land-forces here affords an occasion for treating of the Getae, one of the Thracian tribes. Darius, even if he had aimed only at Scythia, would have found the Taurians sufficiently near. But as he now advanced from the Thracian Bosphorus, he stirred up all the nations, which dwell in what is now called Moldavia and Wallachia, Siebenburgen (Transylvania), Hungary, as far as Poland, and even as far north as Russia; nations which the Greeks reckoned as belonging partly to the great Thracian family, and partly to the Scythian, or else chose to describe as separate races, though related to them. Here appear, amongst others, the Budini (who have lately received so much honour); here the Sauromatae behind the Palus Moeotis, with their wars against the Amazons, furnish an attractive legendary episode. These were of that number who agreed with the Scythians in their assertion that this expedition by no means concerned them alone, but threatened slavery also to the other northern nations; and therefore they closed in to support the Scythians, as the averters of the blow.
But the whole narrative of the expedition of Darius, as Herodotus began and continued it, is manifestly unhistorical in its chief bearings, and could have appeared credible to Herodotus himself, only because he had sketched his Scythia, his foursquare Scythia so much smaller than it is in reality. For he never penetrated far into the interior, and certainly could only have heard by report of the eight fortified places, which Darius caused to be built on the Daros, i.e. according to Kennel, the Volga. Not that we can doubt the existence of the ruins of these fortresses, which Herodotus points out as extant still “in his time” that is to say, when a few years before he travelled along the coast of Scythia, and collected his information ; yet a doubt may be entertained whether they had Darius for their builder. For what purpose could these strong places have served him, each one half a mile from its neighbour, reminding us rather of the ringos of the Awaren? However, let everyone explain that as he pleases; yet how highly are we to appreciate the preservation of information which came partly from the Scythians, who, with a view to commerce, occasionally penetrated, by the assistance of seven interpreters, as far as the Calmucs of the Ural (the Argippaei), who are said to have furnished this account; and partly also from the Greeks of the trading-towns on the Black Sea, principally from Olbia? But no testimony can bid defiance to impossibilities. How then, in a general view, could it be possible for Darius in sixty days to have twice marched, and by the worst possible road, over this immense distance, from the mouth of the Danube as far as the Volga (not far from Saratow)? An army of 700,000 men must have accomplished what no traveller in that age could have performed within the time. Where however, in the year 1739, general Munnich struggled with countless difficulties, while a living grave threatened those of his men who sank exhausted by the way, and yet, notwithstanding these frightful forms and phantoms of death, he could make but slow advances; there, in those earlier days, they are said to have marched onwards rapidly, to have waged war without loss, and still to have had superfluous time to build eight useless fortresses, which must defend themselves without a garrison! Rennel indeed has sought to furnish both men and cattle with subsistence by means of the fleet in the Black Sea; but it is a long distance from the Black Sea to the interior of Russia and Poland, as far as the Carpathian mountains. Moreover Rennel, while thus managing the provisioning of the troops, has produced in the army of Darius a more grievous loss than the French suffered in Russia; his bare word kills 630,000 men, while he reduces the army to 70,000! This then is altogether capricious, and the thing impossible; for after the return from this unsuccessful and foolish enterprise, a portion of the army, amounting to 80,000 men, remained behind on the coast of Thrace. Rennel also thinks that no bridges were built over the rapid rivers in these treeless steppes.
It is quite inconceivable that Darius can have accomplished an expedition of such an extent, especially in this limited time, and moreover with his army entire. Therefore the friends of “the northern hypothesis” should consider well, ere they make Odin fly on that occasion from the Tanais into their Scandinavia; which Tanais, perhaps chiefly by a fondness for etymology (because the Danish name has been supposed to be found in it), has made its way into the creed of northern history. We see then in this instance an occurrence, only thirty years anterior to the birth of Herodotus, exaggerated to such a. degree by the caprice of narrators and diverse ethnographical embellishments, that it has entirely lost its genuine modest measurement. For the expedition into Scythia in itself admits of no doubt, nor have we any doubt respecting the preservation for which, through a singular fatality, the Persian king was indebted to the Greeks who were in charge of the bridge, or, more properly, to their tyrants, who chose rather to exercise authority as his vassals, than to live as freemen with their free fellow-citizens.
Section VI. The Expedition of Aryandes against the Libyan, a companion to that against Scythia,
Directly after the account of the northern barbarians, who repulsed their invader, we must descend to the south, where at the same time the attempt was made by an insolent prefect, at once with sea and land-forces, to accomplish that which Cambyses had been obliged to relinquish, the subjugation of the Libyan nation. The occasion arises from the tributary kingdoms of Greek foundation, Cyrene and its daughter-state Barce. The opportunity is taken to insert the history of Cyrene from its first traditionary beginnings. King Arcesilaus, the last of the Battiadae, who did homage to Cambyses, had requested assistance from Cyprus and from Samos against his own discontented subjects. He was indebted to the Samians for his restoration; but he soon after met with his death in Barce, where, alarmed at an oracle, he had taken up his abode at the court of his father-in-law, the king of the country. But now Pheretime, the mother of the assassinated Arcesilaus, calls upon Aryandes, the Persian prefect of Egypt, for vengeance, on a pretext that her son had been murdered by the Barcaeans solely because he sided so heartily with the Persians. Aryandes sends off an army and aids Pheretime in inflicting on the Barcaeans the most horrible revenge, obtained by artifice. Pheretime herself, however, soon came to a wretched end, being eaten alive by worms; “so seriously are the gods displeased with men for revenge carried to excess!” It is then to be considered as certain that the Divine hand is lifted up for immediate chastisement, against individual acts of uncommon wickedness, such as the burning of temples or the putting to death captive enemies. Aryandes also, who in his pride would fain have placed himself on a par with Darius (in coining money, &c.) was at a subsequent period put to death.
Here, however, a human infirmity seems to have stolen upon Herodotus. “This expedition,” he says, “may not have been undertaken by Aryandes so much for the purpose of assisting Pheretime as for advancing his own honour, by the subjugation of the Libyans, the greater part of whom were entirely independent of the Great King”. But in the actual enterprise no such a plan appears. Aryandes, after the conquest of Barce, causes the army, which of its own choice having gone back to Cyrene, bad now marched beyond it, to be entirely recalled; and during their farther retrograde march, the troops suffer considerably from the plunder-seeking hordes of Libyans. We cannot therefore but perceive from hence, that, as the Scythian expedition is magnified by the traditionary accounts of it, so here also an exaggerated representation, which does not correspond with the truth, of the real importance of this affair, has imposed itself upon Herodotus, who was anxious to connect together his information concerning the Libyan nations.
Section VII. The Conquest of the Thracians and Paeonians. The Macedonians forced to do Homage. Breaking out of the War with Greece.
But the Thracian expedition, in accordance with his plan, introduces us to the most important occurrences, having been undertaken by Megabazus, the best and most trusty of the royal generals who had been left behind in Europe; whilst Darius himself, remaining stationary at Sardis, was openly preparing for that still greater enterprise, from obstructing which he had probably only wished to deter the Scythians. Megabazus having conquered Perinthus, proceeds through Thrace, subduing to the Great King every city and every tribe of those who dwelt there. In thus expressing himself, however, Herodotus might say too much; because in truth only the coastdistrict was subjugate, unless it be allowed that in the expression, “those who dwelt there” the word there refers, not to Thrace generally but to this tract of Thrace, which, like Perinthus, lies on the seacoast.
The episode of the Thracians moreover is here handled with greater brevity and lightness than might be expected, especially in relation to a race of men which the historian considers the largest of all, with the exception of the Indian. This perhaps resulted from various grounds; partly because the sea-coast of Thrace had but recently become well known to the Greeks, since it had fallen into dependence upon Athens; and partly because in the inland parts of Thrace the kingdom of the Odrysae had been erected, since the time of Darius, by Tereus the father of that Sitalces, who at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war entered into remarkable relations with Athens. Now a circumstantial statement of these details would have been necessary, had the transition from the one state of things to the other been intended to be set forth. The plan of the work also led to the same result; at least if the view of it above taken be correct. Neither had Herodotus ever been in the remotest parts of Thrace, nor was information at his command concerning the tribes belonging to the Danube.
It was owing to a singular fancy that Megabazus received an order from the king to reduce the Paeonians also to submission, a people who were distinct from the Thracians, being one of several tribes dwelling on the Strymon between Thrace and Macedonia, and who considered themselves as a colony from Troy. Megabazus however is able to subdue only one part of them, whom he sends, as he was ordered, with their women and children into Asia.
Now after Macedonia also had done homage without offering any resistance, and by a piece of good fortune (as we must consider it) the assassination of seven Persian messengers of high rank by the young Alexander, the king’s son, had been passed over without any strict enquiry, the faithful servant, Megabazus, observes with anxiety that Histiaeus, tyrant of Miletus (a suspicious Greek noble, but a favourite of the Greek king since the affair of the bridge over the Danube), had begun to establish for himself a territory and a fortified place in the land of Thrace.
Darius submits the case to his council, and under the appearance of doing him honour, summonses Histiaeus to be near his person; who after appointing his own brother to be governor at Sardis, returns back to Susa. Megabazus also is recalled; his successor, Otanes, extends the Persian dominion in Europe, and begins hostilities against Greece by the conquest of Byzantium and Chalcedon, and the capture of the islands of Lemnos and Imbros. Whoever fell into his hands he reduced to slavery; the pretext for this severity was, with some that they had not taken part in the Scythian expedition, with others that they had inflicted injury upon those who returned, after its unsuccessful termination.
This, however, was but a small evil in comparison with that conflagration which the restless ambition and unscrupulous spirit of a few individuals in Ionia now kindled, the flame of which soon seized upon and ravaged the whole of Greece. It nevertheless purified the atmosphere, so that from that time the sun shone, brighter there, and the inhabitants appeared greater and happier in their works than before, and later generations of men still renovate themselves after the figure of that more elevated existence; and (what is still more to our purpose) history at this day exults in being able to say, “The Greeks would not now have risen in arms against the most intolerable grievances, had not that ancient oppression (under which their ancestors bid defiance to a world) stood clear before the eyes of the better spirits among them, and had not Herodotus preserved the remembrance of those sufferings and those exploits”.
Aristagoras, son-in-law of Histiaeus and actual governor of Miletus in his stead, a man so indifferent to the prosperity of Greece, that he instigated the king’s brother to undertake the conquest of Naxos and all the Cyclades, and even made him desirous of Euboea; this same man, now that those plans had miscarried, and he saw the costs and responsibilities coming upon him, having a secret understanding with his father-in-law, calls upon the Asiatic Greeks to recover their liberty. Herodotus gives not a word of approbation to the ill-considered undertaking, to which Hecataeus in vain offered the opposition of his own great experience. The times had changed. Sparta refused on this occasion to mix herself up with the concerns of Asia; Athens promises the wished-for aid. This leads to a copiously detailed statement of the then internal condition of the two principal states of Greece, the survey of which is rendered somewhat difficult by the insertion (occasioned certainly by their actual connexion) of the histories of Aegina and of Corinth.
Athens sends a fleet; Sardis is burnt; the Carians make common cause with their Greek neighbours; Cyprus also throws off the domination which had been so oppressive; and the Paeonians, whom Megabazus had transplanted to Phrygia, take advantage of the unsettled state of things in order to return again to the home of their fathers. But the servants of the Great King are already at hand to put down an insurrection, which, being undertaken with such little preparation, could scarcely succeed; but if it miscarry, and, in consequence, the might of Asia should appear in the strong places of Europe in order to punish those who had assisted it, then will fear and ambition and mutual exasperation urge on and consume the powers of Greece against each other. Not only the general woe of war impends (for in peace fathers are buried by their children, in war children by their fathers), but the peculiar horrors threaten of a contest between men of the same race, of neighbours with their own faithless fellow-citizens; while in the background stands the uniform spirit-breaking domination of the stranger, ready as soon as the outworks are thrown down, to oppress half the world.
The Greeks, who withstood Darius and Xerxes, fought and conquered for all of us who are now living.
CHAPTER THE EIGHTH.
THE CANDOUR OF HERODOTUS IRRESPECTIVE, BUT THE MORE GUARDED THE NEARER TO HIS OWN TIMES,
Section I. Defence of his Earnestness and Love of Truth.
Now from this point we no longer follow the course of the narrative, which henceforth, with but few and short and closelying digressions, presses onwards in an undivided channel in one decided direction. There is now a stronger demand upon us to remove a misconception which has lately been repeated by an estimable scholar. “Herodotus” it is said, “in strong contrast to the earnest depth of Thucydides, wrote far mere amusement and was an extravagant eulogist of his own nation, without a proper acquaintance with, and regard for, the actions of those who were not Greeks; for all of which an apology may certainly be found in the epic form of the oldest historical writings, which is to be considered as the cause of all. From the reproach of a want of plan and rule, which his over-wise countryman Dionysius brings against him, we have already seen him brilliantly justify himself; that other calumny also, which would represent him “as a venal writer, who on the side perhaps of his former fellow-citizens and the cotemporaries of Cleon, devoted his mercenary pen to corrupt purposes,” has long since died away in its own worthlessness. But, moreover, those other representations happily disappear before an eye that is unprejudiced by a preconceived theory of history, and unclouded by the notion of a national recitation. Thucydides required not the depreciation of Herodotus. There is room enough for the admission of both, and for more besides. Their successors have not overcrowded the elevated platform.
The distinguishing peculiarity of Herodotus was the unsuspicious confidence with which he seized upon what was good under every climate and all forms of government. Hatred of the Persians nowhere betrays itself nowhere even an aversion to their dominion; many passages in honour of this people remind us of the Germania of Tacitus, whilst they are greatly superior to it in the purity of. disinterested representation. He writes with a feeling of regard concerning Darius, whom the house of his parents had honoured as a master; he places in a bright light, with a favourable leaning towards him, the silly delusion and the vain arrogance of his son; he even quotes some traits of his magnanimity. In his delineation of the Ionian insurrection, a Persian reader would have found little to object to, still less would the Ionian who was conscious to himself, besides many other desirable things, of at least an earnest wish for freedom, and of having done something for its attainment.
Who would deny a knowledge of Persian affairs to the quondam subject of Persia (who had also travelled over a great part of the provinces of the empire) even if the eloquent evidence of his work were wanting ? Thus much certainly cannot be denied, the army of Xerxes is excessive and incredibly enormous, as he exhibits it; mid Herodotus is liable to the reproach (or, more correctly, we feel it as a defect in him) that he seldom enquires what was within the compass of human powers, and that his insight into the laws of nature, and likewise of political science, was very moderate. This defect made him frequently the mere narrator, or, if it be preferred, tuned him to the tone and manner of the epic poet, where we should rather have expected the discriminating critic and judge. But what he intends is not merely an euphonious pleasing narrative; he intends history, and that settles the question; when we consider moreover that he employed all possible means and all the energy of his life, not forsooth for the formation of his style, but to be so entirely in possession of the facts, that they should relate their own history for him. A certain Choerilus, cotemporary with Herodotus, dared in his epic poem, The Victory of the Athenians over Xerxes, of which we possess some small fragments, to exhibit the proud list of nations which followed the king of Asia into Europe, without any stint of ornament or numbers. With good conscience might he receive a golden stater for every line, provided he had actually entered into this enquiry; but I am always afraid that these sources of information in Suidas flow more copiously than they did to the Athenians, who really had to furnish the enumeration. However this may be, all arbitrary invention of facts was far removed from Herodotus, nor does he betray by a word the intention of raising the merit of the conquerors by an exaggeration of the Persian forces. Herodotus might go so far as to adopt, without suspicion, representations which deceived by their appearance of authenticity (and let us not overlook what is here so evident, how quickly even recent history is disfigured when fancy and inclination interfere”); but he adopts them implicitly; and therefore gives himself no trouble to get rid again of the huge mass, to reduce the exaggerated statements of losses, nor, generally, in his descriptions of battles, to maintain the vigorous tone of his commencement, so rich in wonders and in warning prognostications. As a spectator rather than an expositor of transactions, he felt, it would seem, no call to carry his enquiries into those political connexions and relations which decide the duration and the decline of states. Yet even in this respect it was natural that his lively spirit should not remain without forming some views. He had visited many of the kingdoms as a traveller, and still more in the spirit of an historian. The hand of time had buried before his eyes what was still great and imposing, while it had placed the unseen at an amazing elevation. Therefore he resolved (for which resolution we are so much indebted to him) that in writing his book nothing should be disdained on account of its smallness. “ I will treat,” he says, “as well of the small as of the great cities of men; since many of those which were great in the time of our forefathers have become small; and those which are great in my time were formerly small. Since then I know that human greatness has no durability, I will even make mention of both alike”. But when he comes to the causes of these great changes, we certainly miss altogether the lessons and warnings which Thucydides so richly dispenses on state-questions and real life. In Herodotus everything would fain connect itself immediately with the will of the Deity, which floated before the minds of many in the olden time as the greater power (in the merely human sense of the term), in comparison with the greatness of the universe. According to this sense the Deity observes with jealousy the doings of men, and wherever the partiality of fortune drives on the waves too high, interferes, not for the sake of the human race, but that the Deity may continue master of the order of the universe. It was thus that Artabanus, the uncle of Xerxes, addressed him in language of warning: “Seest thou how God’s lightning strikes creatures of excessive size, and suffers them not to grow wanton in their pride, while the smaller ones trouble him not? Seest thou not how his thunderbolt always strikes the highest buildings and loftiest trees? For the Deity is wont to cut down everything that rises too high, or grows too great. Thus even a large army is destroyed by a small one, whenever the Deity, becoming jealous, casts a panic-fear, or the terror of his thunder upon them, so that they perish disgracefully. Since God suffers no one but himself to think highly of himself”. The same Artabanus declares that the Deity itself, as the dispenser of the sweets of life, which to men appears so short, has laid the mark of its envy on each day; inasmuch as it has bound up with our life sorrows and cares which make death to be looked upon as a wished-for refuge. That letter of Amasis to Polycrates is also well known, which begins thus: “It is certainly gratifying to hear of the prosperity of a dear friend and ally; but these instances of great good fortune please me not, since I know how envious the deity is” (in. 40). This view, so often recurring in the ancient contemplation of the government of the world, if indeed we are to look upon it as anything more than the historian’s own peculiar view, is certainly not the result of profound thinking (though the Hebrews also were acquainted with a jealous God); moreover it is not, even in its best form, of any use to the historian, because, whilst it overlooks his own peculiar doctrine as to the acknowledged relations of man, it refers everything to inscrutable decrees. It was not however our business to conceal this defect of judgment in Herodotus, but to show, that as far as his observation and his means extended, he has always honestly laboured to give true history.
The charge of having flattered the Athenians has been frequently made against him by ancient writers. He has done no such thing. It is true that he has done them the justice of saying that they were the first who dared to look the Persians in the face; he certainly attributes to them and their Themistocles expressly, the salvation of Greece; but just as little does he approve of their conduct towards Angina, or bestow upon them the praise of a never-failing constancy. He tells us that Miltiades was afraid, that if a battle were not brought about, they might after all decide for the Persians. At the battle of Salamis the highest praise for courage is not ascribed to them, but to their rivals, the people of Aegina. The equivocal character of Themistocles and his insatiable love of money' are openly exposed, as is also the narrow-minded policy of the Spartans. We should attribute to Herodotus the courage of Leonidas, and to the Greeks the self-denial of Aristides, if at a time when the general opinion was entirely on the side of the Spartans, he was suffered to deliver publicly a passage like the following, and to reap the fair recompense of public approbation on its recital.
“The expedition of the king was undertaken, in pretence certainly against Athens, but in reality against Greece in general; indeed the Greeks had been long aware of it, but did not all feel alike respecting it. For some of them trusted, that because they had given earth and water to the Persians, the strangers would certainly do them no harm; the others, who had not thus done homage, were full of apprehension, because neither was there prepared a sufficient fleet to oppose the attack, nor had the people properly so called, any inclination for the war, but rather were strongly biased in favour of the Persians. I must here of necessity express my opinion, which will certainly be unfavourably received by the majority of men; nevertheless I must not withhold what seems to me to be the truth. Had the Athenians through dread of the threatening danger left their country, or, not choosing to leave it, remained and surrendered it to Xerxes, no one would even have made the attempt to oppose the king by sea. Now if no opposition were made by sea, the result on the land would have been as follows: even had the Peloponnesians carried several girdles of walls across the isthmus, the Lacedaemonians (after their allies had forsaken them, not of free choice, but by necessity, their cities being taken one after another by the fleet of the barbarians,) would have been left alone, and thus alone, after displaying noble deeds, would have nobly died. Either this must have befallen them, or, seeing that the other Greeks were Medizing, they would previously have made a compact with Xerxes. In either case Greece would have fallen into the hands of the Persians. For I cannot conceive what would be the use of walls across the isthmus, when once the king was master of the sea. Whoever then calls the Athenians the deliverers of Greece cannot be far from the truth ; for to whichever side they turned, on that would the scale have preponderated. When therefore they had decided for the continuance of Grecian liberty, it was they alone who stirred up in the rest of Greece whatever had not joined the Persians, and, next to the gods, repulsed the king.”
But it is by no means the case that Herodotus everywhere shows (what it were unpleasant to hear) how the Athenians alone entertained right notions, while, renouncing empty honour, they always pursued their object; every individual state which had sinned at all here receives its sentence. A list is given of all the states who had voluntarily done homage to the foreign king, even before any hostile army had appeared on the soil of Greece. “The Thessalians, the Dolopians, the Enieans, the Perhaebians, the Locrians, the Magnesians, the Melians, the Achaeans of Phthiotis, the Thebans and the other Boeotians except the Thespians and Plataeans”. We learn also from him the resolution which the Greeks assembled in council at the Isthmus, agreed to respecting these deserters from their common cause, “that ever after they should pay a tenth of their property to the Delphic god;” that is, that they should cease to be free landed proprietors; which resolution indeed was not subsequently put into execution (as little as a similar one has been enforced in our days), because on all points the guilt was too great, and the purpose of keeping men more faithfully together in future too feeble. From all his unsparing expositions (so little suited to be publicly recited) there never meanwhile gleams out any spirit of hatred, which might throw suspicion on the genuine expression of the truth. Mention is made of the better inclination of the, properly so called, people of Thessaly; and even of the exculpatory circumstances which accompanied the falling-off of the Argives; if indeed the recollection and feeling of injury endured can ever excuse the crime of coldness and disloyalty during common danger. The historian also suggests that, instead of violently accusing one another, men should rather take to task their own breasts, since every one is too much inclined to consider his own faults as the least; his words are these: “But thus much I am sure of, that if all men would bring each his own share of evil to one common heap, for the purpose of making an exchange with his neighbour, every one of them, after having inspected his neighbour’s share of evil, would most gladly carry home again what he had brought with him. Viewed in this manner, even the Argives have not acted the most shamefully. I must, however, relate what is commonly reported, though I am not obliged to believe it all; and this remark applies to my whole history. It is then reported, that the Argives invited the Persians into Greece, because they had succeeded so badly in their contest with the Lacedaemonians, and had rather endure anything than their then state of mortification. And so we have done speaking of the Argives.” On the other hand, the Corcyraeans might easily have required the thoughtless reciter to prove his assertion that, on the exhortation of their countrymen to give assistance, they had only made use of fair words; and moreover that they were not actually detained by the Etesian winds, as they pretended; to shew also how he knew that they had only kept their ships ready, in order, if it should go badly with the Greeks, to carry them to Xerxes; how moreover, he was able even to assert, that it was their intention, in case matters had taken a different turn, to have spoken thus to the great king: “O king, notwithstanding the invitations of the Greeks to us, who possess, not the smallest number of armed men and of ships, but the greatest number after that of the Athenians, we have not consented to be opposed to you, nor to do what might displease you.” But his censure must have been most disagreeably surprising to any one who had been reckoning upon praise, as was the case with the Corinthians at the battle of Salamis. The Phocians must hear it said, that hatred for the Thessalians alone suggested their courageous determination to bid defiance to the Persians: “Had the Thessalians decided in favour of the Greeks, the Phocians, in my opinion, would have joined the Persians”; and their sense of honour must have felt itself offended by the account which he gives of the conduct of the thousand Phocians who had the care of the foot-path by which the enemy were able to get round the pass of Thermopylae. “The Persians were startled at their appearance, and were afraid they were Lacedaemonians. When they perceived the real state of the case, they discharged their arrows; the Phocian guard fled directly to the summit of the mountain, and, in the persuasion that they were themselves the object of the attack, considered themselves as lost. But the Persians, disregarding them, hastened down the mountain in the rear of Leonidas ”. But however the fame, which an energetic combined effort, even for so limited an object, might have deserved, is not withheld by him from the states of the Peloponnesus ; excepting indeed his often-repeated censure of their shortsightedness in always thinking only of their great wall! The nations of the peninsula are named, who took part in raising the protection of this wall; the Lacedaemonians, all the Arcadians, the Eleans, the Corinthians, the Epidaurians, the Phliasians, the Troezenians, the Hermionians. “The rest of the Peloponnesians troubled themselves not about it, and, if it be permitted to say it, had gone away and sided with the Persians”. Finally, would any one wish to know with how little reserve the historian proceeds, even when it concerns the first men of all Greece, and to a certain extent the Grecian states in general, let him read the account of that assembly on the Isthmus, held after the naval victory. Here the commanders of the fleet were themselves to decide who of them had deserved the first, and who the second prize of honour. Each one selfishly gave himself his vote for the first place of merit, but for the second Themistocles had the great majority of votes. Out of envy, however, the Greeks now came to no final decision, but sailed home without adjudging the question. How greatly must the Greeks since then have improved, when they adjudged the prize to an historian who publicly reproached them with all this, in order to entertain them on a high festival with a lecture on self-knowledge!
In truth it would hardly be explicable how the strict contents of the work in its last (perfectly historical) third part, could be misapprehended as they have been, if there were not in the book a peculiar quality which in proportion as it is more rare, has fastened itself the more strongly upon the reader. It is the child-like simplicity, of mind which faithfully accompanies this incorruptible love of truth, and, as the consequence of that union, that winning, happy mode of writing, which, full as it is of life and nature, is attainable by no artifice of entertaining or pathetic excitement. For whilst his pleasing accounts of men, like so many mountain-streams, murmur and fret through their short career, the silver stream of his words carelessly spreads itself out, sure of its unfailing springs, everywhere pure and transparent to the bottom, whether deep or shallow; while that which rules the whole world, the dread of ridicule, never disturbs the elevated simplicity of his mind.
Section II. The Alliance of Carthage with Xerxes no omission on the part of Herodotus.
Now as we have at length reached a point where we may detail particulars of his account of the war of Xerxes, it will not be remote from our subject, nor without weight in judging fairly of Herodotus, if we enquire whether he has not even here been guilty of a remarkable omission, for the supplying of which we have to thank the care of later historians.
We then do not find in him one word of an alliance, which is said to have been entered into between Xerxes and Carthage on these terms, “That the Carthaginians should undertake the conquest of the Greeks of Italy and Sicily, whilst he subdued their mother-land”. Thus it is related by Ephorus, and after him, though not without some variation, by Diodorus. Mitford has certainly thrown a doubt over the correctness of the statement as a matter of fact, but has gained no attention from the learned to this day. Let us enquire whether he has done so with good reason.
The silence of Herodotus cannot by itself decide the point; since he might have been careless, or, what is more credible, might have intended to speak subsequently of the history of Sicily; he does, however, mention the Sicilian war of the Carthaginians, on occasion of the Persian war in Greece, and as nearly connected with it in point of time, but absolutely says not a word about the alliance; now this alters the case.
The general probability speaks against any such alliance. It was not the manner of the Persians, in the time of their greatness, to enter into alliances, as equals with their equals; and Carthage was not in a condition to suffer herself to be forced into a connexion which looked like compulsion. As to any voluntary determination of the kind on the part of Carthage, it is not at all to be thought of. Had Carthage any desire to possess Sicily, it was quite open to her to make trial of her strength in the conquest of it. Where the Persian contributed no auxiliary force, the alliance with the Great King would bring no advantage to Carthage, but much risk of being obliged to relinquish her acquisition. And could the Punic city have continued uninformed that Persia had already at an earlier period turned her land-coveting eye towards her? a regard to her own interest, easily understood, must have taught her, if not to make common cause with the Greeks, at least not to contribute to the extension of the threatening power of the Persians.
But, moreover, the conduct of the prince of Syracuse points to the true circumstances of the case. Gelon, not without reason, distrusted the success of the Grecian cause, and would enter into terms solely on condition that the chief direction of affairs should be given up to him. When the Greek ambassadors rejected with pride this unreasonable demand, he determined to remain neutral; but, as soon as Persia should have conquered, to procure for himself favourable terms with the Great King by a voluntary homage. At last he despatched a man of rank with great sums of money ready to be presented in case of doing homage, but with instructions to act according to circumstances. This man, when the Greeks had conquered at Salamis, honestly brought back his treasures to him. Herodotus vouches for the truth of all this; now had Gelon been really thus minded, he must also have sought for peace with the Carthaginians, supposing they had declared themselves as allies of the king; still less would he have dared to engage as he did in the contest; since, if he were victorious, he would only be threatened with heavier vengeance from Persia.
Therefore Gelon’s war with the Carthaginians had no immediate concern with any apprehensions on account of Persia. Herodotus had information expressly communicated to him concerning these transactions, as well Sicilian as Carthaginian. Neither of these accounts says a single syllable about an alliance with Persia, but the first of them declares in plain words the occasion of the attack made upon him by the Carthaginians, with whom at a still earlier date this Gelon had waged war, and had in vain sought assistance in Greece. They came for the purpose of reinstating a tyrant who had been expelled from Himera by Theron, prince of Agrigentum, but were defeated in a battle near Himera by their opponents, Gelon and Theron. All is thus far clear; but however we cannot concede the monstrously exaggerated assertion of the Sicilians concerning the 300,000 men which the Carthaginians brought with them; (for when did Carthage ever bring such a number into the field?) nor yet the statement, that Gelon, notwithstanding his dissatisfaction on account of the rejection of his claims to the chief command, would yet have assisted the Greeks against Xerxes, had it not been for the Carthaginians; and this is so much the less, because it is easy to perceive to what this concession would lead.
He might well have desired to have a share in prosperous undertakings, or indeed he might have been hindered from so doing by the impossibility of effecting the co-operation. Gelon, however, never took part against Xerxes, yet he presumed to boast of having triumphantly defended Sicilian Greece from the attacks of other barbarians. Indeed (as if men could ever consent to his extravagant aim of placing on a level with the Persian invasion a war in which his own calculations only, and no actual necessity, involved him) he presumed to call himself, after his own fashion, the deliverer of Greece. Pindar certainly, in his celebrated hymn addressed to Hiero, the brother of Gelo, ranks the successful battle, fought on the shore of the beautiful Himera, next to those of Salamis and Plataea. The next step was (and so the transaction was related in Sicily at the time of Herodotus) to make the occurrences out of which these claims spring to coincide in point of time; Gelon would thus be justified in his pretensions, and, care being taken to make the number of the enemy as great as possible, he actually appeared as a hero who had effected almost as much by his sole power as all the rest of Greece with its united forces. What was so natural as that, in process of time, men should advance still one step farther, and represent these cotemporaneous efforts to oppress the whole of the Greeks in their widely-separated localities as the results of one and the same plan on the part of the barbarians! The alliance between Persia and Carthage was thus affirmed as a fact by Ephorus; and Diodorus, the Sicilian, informs us that the Carthaginians, just as Xerxes did, employed three years in warlike preparations. With regard to the day of the battle we now find this variation; at the time of Herodotus the Sicilians related (though Herodotus leaves it undecided) that the battle of Himera was fought on the same day with that of Salamis; but now it is said to have occurred on that of Thermopylae. Nor is this change without good reason. On the same day, it can now be said, on which they of the mother-land succumbed with honour indeed, yet still succumbed, the Greeks of Sicily knew how to conquer the barbarians, and the intelligence of this victory first gave courage and confidence to the mother-country. Nor is this enough; to the prayers of the Carthaginians, who through grief and apprehension bad kept watch throughout the night, and dreaded to see him land in Africa, Gelon now granted peace in order that he might still hasten to the assistance of the motherland. He then learns from some new comers from Corinth, that the Greeks had conquered at Salamis, and that Xerxes had already withdrawn from Europe. Matters therefore remained as they were; though Mardonius, who was still stronger than the Carthaginians at Himera, might seem to be an object worthy of an effort. Thus it is that historical narratives are fashioned according to what is palatable, without the assistance of epic writers, merely through the dishonest and flattering inclinations of men! as in the battle of Thermopylae, where Plutarch and Diodorus fall into romantic descriptions, no reproach on the score of omission attaches to Herodotus, so here also he comes out with untarnished credit, where the temptation lay so near to glitter with highly-coloured narrative or an affectation of universal history. And yet he had at that time himself become an Italian Greek, to whom it might have been worthwhile, if he had loved such arts, to transfer to his new countrymen and neighbours one half of the glory gained by the hard-fought battles of the Greeks.
Section III. Description of the Battle of Plataea, from Herodotus,
Now since the fact is notorious that Herodotus, though much used, is seldom read connectedly, and therefore little understood, let me be permitted here, over and above what the argument requires, to recall to memory his description of the battle of Plataea, though not through a formal translation, which might be too long. Langes (German) translation leaves little to be wished for in regard to tone and expression, and only required a somewhat stricter correction, to make it worthy of being considered a perfect model. Herodotus himself however must hero be considered as speaking, abridgments and omissions excepted.
The united forces of the Greeks, drawn up near Plataea, amounted in heavy and light-armed troops together, to just 110,000 men. Now as soon as the barbarians under Mardonius learnt that the Greeks were near Plataea, they also turned back to the Asopus, which runs by that place. When they arrived there, they were drawn up in the following order over against the Greeks : opposite to the Lacedaemonians, which were on the right wing, he placed the Persians; these, however, as being greatly superior in numbers, were divided into several corps, and yet reached so far as to front the Tegeans, who were stationed next to the Lacedaemonians. But he arranged them thus: having selected the flower of them, he placed them over against the Lacedaemonians, and the weaker part against the Tegeans; for thus the Thebans had counselled him. Next to the Persians in the line of battle came the Medes, who had opposed to them the Corinthians, and Potidaeans, and Orchomenians, and Sicyonians. Next to the Medes came the Bactrians, to whom were opposed the Epidaurians, Troezenians, Lepreans, Tirynthians, Myceneans and Phliasians. Next to the Bactrians he placed the Indians, over against the Hermionians, Eretrians, Styrians and Chalcidians. To the Indians joined on the Sacians, opposed to the Ambracians, Anactorians, Leucadians, Paleans and Aeginetae. Next to the Sacians he stationed over against the Athenians, Plataeans and Megarians (who formed the left wing of the Greeks), the Boeotians, Locrians, Malians, and Thessalians and a thousand of the Phocians. For all the people of Phocis had not joined the Persians, but a part of them strengthened the ranks of the Greeks, while others making incursions from Mount Parnassus, plundered and annoyed the camp of Mardonius and the Greeks that sided with him. He placed also the Macedonians and Thessalians opposite to the Athenians. The barbarian army was 300,000 strong, exclusive of Greeks, whose number has never been exactly known; but I think I may reckon it altogether at 50,000. The above is the order of the foot-forces; the cavalry had their positions severally assigned to them.
When they were now all stationed by nations and by corps, at the break of the following day both armies sacrificed; on the Greek side the omens from the victims were favourable, provided they remained on the defensive; but not for crossing the Asopus, and commencing the contest. Neither was the sacrifice (which he had performed after the Grecian fashion, and by the ministry of a Grecian priest) more favourable to the wish of Mardonius, who was anxious to begin the battle; but the omens were encouraging to him also, provided he would be satisfied with defending himself. Because, however, the Greeks meanwhile were constantly flocking in, and constantly becoming more numerous, Timegenidas, son of Herpys, a Theban, advised Mardonius to occupy the passes of Cithaeron, where, he told him, he would be sure to intercept many of the Greeks, who were all day long coming in from that direction. They had now remained nine days stationary over against each other, when he gave this counsel to Mardonius, who, seeing that the suggestion was good, as soon as it was night sent off the cavalry to the passes of Cithaeron which lead towards Plataea, and are called by the Boeotians the Three-Heads, and by the Athenians the Oak’s-Heads. Nor did the cavalry make the march in vain; for five hundred beasts of burthen, which were bringing supplies from the Peloponnesus for the use of the army, were captured, just as they were getting free from the defile, together with the men who had the care of the convoy. The Persians on making this capture, slaughtered men and cattle unmercifully, till, having satiated themselves, they drove the remainder into the camp of Mardonius.
The next two days nothing farther was done except that the cavalry of Mardonius constantly harassed the Greeks, of which the Thebans were the cause, who, being entirely devoted to the Persian side, urged on the war most zealously, but when they had brought about a skirmishing fight, they always yielded the precedence to the courage of the Persians and Medes. But when they had now stood thus over against each other near Plataea till the eleventh day, the Greeks hourly becoming stronger and Mardonius growing tired of inaction, Artabazus, son of Pharnaces, a man especially esteemed by Xerxes, advised that the whole army should as quickly as possible withdraw to the fortified city of Thebes, where great supplies had been prepared for them and fodder for their cattle. There they might remain at their ease, and thus bring matters to a close; they would there have at their disposal a great quantity of gold, coined and uncoined, as well as a vast number of silver vessels and drinking-cups; if these were, without sparing, sent to the Greeks in all directions, especially to the leading men of the Grecian states, they would then soon give up their freedom without venturing to strike a single blow. The Thebans approved of this advice; but it was Mardonius who was inclined rather to appeal to arms without farther consideration, and by no means to think of retreating. For he thought that as his army was far superior in numbers to that of the Greeks, they ought to fight as soon as possible, and not look on while the enemy were receiving still larger reinforcements ; they should therefore trouble themselves no farther about the victims of the Greek soothsayer, but begin the battle after the custom of the Persians. He hereupon issued his orders to arm themselves and take their respective stations, since the fight would commence with the break of day.
It was now night, and the watches were set. In the depth of the night however, when all the camp seemed to be at rest, and every human being asleep, Alexander, son of Amyntas, the general and king of the Macedonians, rides up to the outposts of the Athenians, and demands to speak with their generals. The greater part of the guard remained there, while some of them ran to tell the generals that a man on horseback was come from the Persian camp, who would not say a word more than that “be must speak with the generals”. When they heard this they immediately accompanied them to the advanced guard. As soon as they were come, Alexander said to them, “Ye men of Athens, I communicate these words to you in confidence, nor must you speak of them to any one, except Pausanias, lest you should bring ruin upon me. Indeed I should not speak, if I did not from my heart grieve for the whole of Greece. For I am myself by original descent a Greek, and I would not willingly see the free country of Greece reduced to slavery. Thus therefore I say to you : Mardonius and his army have as yet obtained no favourable omens, or else you would have fought long ago. But now he has determined to disregard the victims, and commence the attack with the dawn of morning. For he is afraid, as I conjecture, lest your numbers should go on increasing. Even if Mardonius should put off the attack and not make it, only remain still on your ground, for they have provisions for only a few days. Now if this war should turn out according to your wish, then shall you also think of me and the means of effecting my emancipation, who through zeal for the Greeks have taken so hazardous a step, in order that the barbarians might not suddenly and unexpectedly fall upon you. I am Alexander, the Macedonian.” After these words he rode back to the camp and his appointed station.
The Athenian generals on this went to the right wing, and told Pausanias what they had heard from Alexander. Alarmed at the account, he spoke thus: “Since therefore the battle is to begin at the dawn, you, Athenians, must take your station over against the Persians, and we Lacedaemonians against the Boeotians and the other Greeks who are stationed against you; for you are acquainted with the Persians and their mode of fighting ever since your battle at Marathon. But we have no experience or knowledge of them; with the Boeotians however and Thessalians we are well acquainted. Wherefore you must take up your arms and march to this wing, and we in like manner will go to the left wing.” To this the Athenians replied: “It occurred to us also, when we saw you opposed to the Persians, to make to you the same proposal with which you have now anticipated us; but we were afraid the suggestion might not be agreeable to you. But now that you have begun the subject, we hesitate not to say that the proposal is very gratifying to us, and we are ready to act accordingly.” Since both parties approved the arrangement, and the morning was already beginning to dawn, they changed their stations. The Boeotians, however, as soon as they observed what was going on, communicated the intelligence to Mardonius. As soon as he heard it, he also began to make corresponding alterations, and led his Persians over against the Lacedaemonians. Pausanias, therefore, when he perceived that his movement had been discovered, led the Lacedaemonians back again to the right wing; and Mardonius made a similar movement to the left wing.
After they had now again taken up their old positions, Mardonius sent a herald and reproached the Lacedaemonians by observing that they, who had the reputation of the greatest valour, who never yielded, but either conquered or died, had now given way even before the battle, and, having exposed the Athenians to the brunt of the battle, had stationed themselves against the slaves of the Persians. He moreover offered them to decide the matter by the contest of an equal number chosen from both armies, on condition that whichever side should conquer should be considered as conquering for the whole army. The herald, however, went back without an answer. Mardonius nevertheless, highly delighted and proud of this empty victory sent out his cavalry against the Greeks, who caused them much damage by their javelins and arrows; they also corrupted and stopped up the fountain Gargaphia, whence the Grecian army had been supplied with water, while by means of their superior cavalry and mounted archers they cut them off from getting water from the Asopus.
In this state of things—since the army could get no more water, and was annoyed by the cavalry, and, what was worse still, even their supplies of food were failing (for the campservants whom they had despatched into the Peloponnesus were intercepted by the cavalry, and could not return to the camp)—the council of generals, having met on the right wing at the tent of Pausanias, determined, if the Persians should put off the attack on this day, to move off on the following night. Their plan was to march ten stadia farther, to an island formed by the river Asopus near Plataea, and called by the name of Oeroe; for there they would get a full supply of water, nor could the enemy’s cavalry approach them. It was resolved also that on the same night one half of the army should go off to meet and protect the camp-servants, who had been sent to get com, from being intercepted.
After they had thus determined, they had still to pass a day of great annoyance, constantly harassed by the cavalry. When, however, at the end of day, the cavalry desisted and the hour of night had come, at which their departure was fixed, the greater part of them indeed set off, but took no thought about reaching the appointed place of rendezvous; but being once in motion, and delighted to have gotten away from the cavalry, they hastened to the city of Plataea, and in rapid flight arrived at the temple of Juno, which lies in front of Plataea, and is twenty stadia from the Gargaphian fountain. Here they halted and encamped around the temple. When Pausanias saw their departure from the camp, he ordered the Lacedaemonians also to take up their arms and follow after them, in the belief that they were marching to the appointed place. Now the rest of the captains were ready to obey Pausanias; but Amompharetus, son of Poliades, leader of the cohort of the Pitanetae, declared he would not flee before the enemy, nor consent to bring disgrace upon Sparta; he was astonished at what had occurred, not having been present at the previous conference. While Pausanias and Euryanax were persuading him to obey, lest his cohort, being left alone, should be cut off and perish, they continued stationary with the Lacedemonian forces.
The Athenians on their part also remained still on their ground, because they knew the disposition of the Lacedemonians, ever thinking one thing and saying another. But when the army put itself in motion, they despatched a horseman to see whether the Spartans were taking measures for their departure, or were not thinking of marching at all; to enquire moreover of Pausanias, what was to be done. When now the herald came to the Lacedaemonians, he found them still on their ground, and their commanders engaged in angry discussion with one another. For as Euryanax and Pausanias were exhorting Amompharetus not to bring the Lacedaemonians, thus left behind, into certain danger, but could make no progress in the matter of their altercation, the herald of the Athenians came up. Amompharetus, in the heat of the dispute, grasped with both hands a large stone, and, throwing it down before the feet of Pausanias, exclaimed, “With this ballot-stone I give my vote not to flee before the foreigners,” meaning by that term the barbarians. Pausanias called him fool and madman; and when the Athenian messenger enquired according to his orders, Pausanias bid him inform them how matters stood, and requested the Athenians to come over to them and act with them respecting their departure; and so he returned back to the Athenians. The dawn now found them engaged in this dispute, whereupon Pausanias, who all along had been of opinion that, when the other Lacedaemonians should go away, Amompharetus would not remain behind (as it indeed turned out), gave the signal for the march, and led thence over the hills all the rest; the Tegeans following. But the Athenians in their march took altogether a different direction from the Lacedaemonians; for these made their way over the high ground and along the foot of Cithaeron, for fear of the cavalry; but the Athenians directed their march below, over the level ground. Now Amompharetus had at first no idea that Pausanias would think of leaving him, and therefore stubbornly refused to leave his station; but when Pausanias moved onwards with his troops, and he perceived that they were leaving him without more ado, he then ordered his cohort to take up their arms, and led them at a slow pace after the others. These had marched ten stadia when they halted by the river Moloeis, at a place called Argiopius, where there was also a temple of Eleusinian Ceres. They halted for this reason, that in case Amompharetus, with his cohort, would not leave his post, but still remain there, they might return to his assistance. There, however, he now joined them with his men; but the whole body of the cavalry of the barbarians also pressed upon them. For they had proceeded exactly as on the preceding days; and when they saw the ground vacant where the Greeks had been so long stationary, they rode rapidly forward, and, having overtaken them, harassed them greatly.
As soon as Mardonius learnt that the Greeks had moved off by night, and saw their position vacant, he called unto him Thorax of Larissa, and his brothers Eurypylus and Thrasydius, and thus spoke: “O ye sons of Aleuas, what say ye at seeing everything thus forsaken by them? Surely you people of the adjoining country said, the Lacedaemonians never flee from the battle, but are the bravest of men in the fight. But you have before seen them changing their station, and now we all see plainly how they have run away from thence during the past night. They have hereby shewn, now that they measure themselves against the bravest of men (as we may say without a falsehood) that, being themselves of no worth, they could have gained distinction only among worthless Greeks. As far as concerns you, who were unacquainted with the Persians, I fully forgive you for praising them of whom you knew something; but so much the more do I wonder at Artabazus, that he should have feared the Lacedaemonians, and in his fear have given the most cowardly advice, that we should break up our camp, in order to suffer ourselves to be besieged behind the walls of Thebes. The king shall hear of that from me ; but more on that matter hereafter. Now, however, we must not by relaxing our efforts suffer their movement to succeed, but must pursue them until we come up with them and chastise them for all which they have done to the Persians.”
After these words he led the Persians at full speed across the Asopus on the footsteps of the Greeks, as after a flying enemy.
He followed, however, only the Lacedaemonians and Tegeans; the Athenians, who had marched by the plain, not being observed by him through the intervention of the high ground. As soon as the commanders of the barbarian forces saw the Persians set out in pursuit of the Greeks, they all immediately gave the signal and joined in the pursuit as fast as their legs could carry them, without any order or arrangement. They advanced also with tumultuous clamour to overtake them.
But Pausanias, finding himself hard pressed by the cavalry, sent a horseman to the Athenians with these words: “Men of Athens, notwithstanding the importance of the contest proposed to us, whether Greece shall be free or in slavery, we Lacedaemonians, and you Athenians, are betrayed by our allies, who have slunk away during the preceding night. Now’ therefore it is our proposal to act thus, being determined to the best of our power to support and stand by one another. Had the cavalry attacked you first, then should we and our faithful friends the Tegeans (who have not betrayed Greece) have been bound to go to your assistance; but now, since they have fallen all of them upon us, it is reasonable that you should give assistance to that part which is distressed. Should it, however, be out of your power to come yourselves to our assistance, do us at least the favour of sending us the archers. We acknowledge that you have displayed the greatest zeal throughout the whole of this war; therefore comply now with our request.”
When the Athenians heard this, they set off to give aid and assistance to the utmost of their power. No sooner, however, were they on their march, than they were attacked by the Greeks, stationed over against them, belonging to the king’s army, so that they could give no farther help; for this attack gave them sufficient employment. Thus the Lacedaemonians and the Tegeans, who never separated from them, remained unsupported; the former, with their light-armed Helots, amounting to fifty thousand men, the Tegeans to three thousand. They also tried the victims, whether they should fight with Mardonius and his army; but the omens were not favourable. Meanwhile a great many of them fell, and still more were wounded; for the Persians had formed a breast-work of bucklers, and discharged from thence such a number of arrows, that the Spartans suffered sorely. Still the victim was unpropitious, when Pausanias looked towards the temple of Juno at Plataea, and with earnest prayer besought her not to disappoint them of their hope. While he was thus praying, the Tegeans arose and advanced against the barbarians, and directly after the prayer of Pausanias the Lacedaemonians, at length obtaining favourable omens from the victims, themselves also moved forwards against the Persians, who, relinquishing the use of their bows, stood firm to meet them. A regular fight first commenced around the breast-work of bucklers, and when this fell, the contest became fiercer and more protracted, hard by the temple of Ceres, until they came to close fighting. The barbarians were not inferior in courage or strength (for they even seized with their hands and broke many Grecian spears); but they were without regular armour, and deficient in military skill and dexterity in comparison with their opponents. They ran in a desultory manner upon the Spartans, by tens, or in separate bodies, larger or smaller, and so perished. But where Mardonius himself fought, mounted on his white charger, with a chosen band of a thousand of the bravest of the Persians around him, there they most impetuously attacked their opponents. And as long as Mardonius lived they kept their ground, defending themselves and killing many of the Lacedaemonians. But as soon as Mardonius and the troop of brave men around him had fallen, the rest turned their backs and fled before the Lacedaemonians. Their want of defensive armour caused them the greatest loss, since they fought against heavy-armed men with this disadvantage.
Thus, according to the promise of the oracle, satisfaction was given by Mardonius to the Lacedaemonians for the death of Leonidas, and the most brilliant victory that we know of was won by Pausanias, son of Cleombrotus, and grandson of Anaxandrides. Now when the Persians were thus driven from the field of battle near Plataea, they fled in disorder into their camp, and the fortifications of wood, which they had built for themselves in the Theban territory.
While all the other Greeks on the king's side purposely acted like cowards, the Boeotians fought for a long time with the Athenians. For those Thebans who had Medized displayed no little zeal, and certainly no cowardice in the fight; so that three hundred of the first and bravest of them fell there by the hands of the Athenians. When they also were driven from the field they fled to Thebes, and did not follow the Persians in their flight, nor the main body of the other confederates, who fled without having sought or sustained any contest at all. Now this convinces me that the cause of the barbarians entirely rested upon the Persians, because on this occasion the others, even before they came in contact with the enemy, fled as soon as they saw the Persians flying. In this manner now they all ran away, excepting the cavalry, and particularly the Boeotian cavalry. For these were of great assistance to the fugitives, constantly remaining near the enemy and protecting their friends from the pursuers; for the Greeks pressed them hard, pursuing and killing the flying forces of Xerxes.
While the horrors of this flight were going on, the other Greeks, who had posted themselves around the temple of Juno, and remained at a distance from the battle, received the intelligence that a battle had taken place, and that the army of Pausanias had conquered. As soon as they heard this, without first putting themselves into order, they set out, the Corinthians by the way which leads over the hills at the foot of the mountain, straight for the temple of Ceres; the Megarians and Phliasians by the most level road across the plain. As these last approached the enemy, the Theban cavalry, having observed how they were hastening on without any order, turned their horses towards them. The commander of the horse was Asopodorus, son of Timandrus. In this charge they killed six hundred of them, and drove the rest in flight to Cithaeron. Thus these men died without gaining any honour.
But the Persians, followed by the rest of the multitude, after they had fled to their wooden fortress, made haste to mount the towers before the Lacedaemonians arrived, and having got up, they barricadoed the wall as well as they could. When the Lacedaemonians came up, a most violent contest arose; for as long as the Athenians were absent the Persians resisted, and even had the advantage of the Lacedaemonians, who were inexperienced in attacking walls. But as soon as the Athenians arrived a fierce struggle for the possession of the wall was kept up for a long time. At length, however, the Athenians by their courage and perseverance scaled the wall and made a breach in it, through which the Greeks poured in. The Tegeans were the first that got in, and it was they who plundered the tent of Mardonius; and found in it, among other things, his horse’s manger, all of brass, and well worth seeing. This manger of Mardonius the Tegeans dedicated in the temple of Minerva Aiea; everything else which they took they brought to the place where the Greeks deposited their common booty. But the barbarians, after their wall had fallen, neither formed themselves into companies nor thought of defence, but were beside themselves from terror, so many myriads of men being crowded together into so narrow a space. The Greeks, therefore, found it so easy to slaughter them, that out of an army of three hundred thousand (of whom forty thousand went off with Artabazus at the beginning of the engagement, towards Phocis, on their homeward route) not three thousand survived! Of the Lacedaemonians of Sparta there fell in the whole ninety-one, of the Tegeans sixteen, of the Athenians fifty-two. On the side of the barbarians, of the infantry the Persians, of the cavalry the Sacians most distinguished themselves; of individuals, Mardonius. Among the Greeks the Tegeans and Athenians proved themselves brave men, although surpassed in courage by the Lacedaemonians. This I cannot better demonstrate than by stating the fact, that they all overcame the enemy that was opposed to them; but the Lacedaemonians had the most courageous opponents to conquer. Now just after the battle, when all was over, the Mantineans arrived; and when they found they were too late, they took it greatly to heart, and said that they must impose a penance on themselves; having learnt, therefore, the flight of the Persians under Artabazus, they resolved to pursue them as far as Thessaly; but the Lacedaemonians would not suffer this pursuit of the fugitives. So they returned home and banished from their country the commanders of their forces. The Eleans arrived still later than the Mantineans, and, grieving like them at their absence from the fight, they also returned home and banished their generals. And so much concerning the Mantineans and Eleans.
Now there was at Plataea, in the ranks of the Aeginetae, a man named Lampon, son of Pytheas, and one of their chiefs, who coming in in haste, thus proposed to Pausanias a most abominable thing: “O son of Cleombrotus, you have performed a deed incomparable in greatness and in brilliancy, to whom the Deity has granted to acquire, as the deliverer of Greece, the greatest renown of all the Greeks that are known to us. Now therefore, do also that other remaining part, that your fame may be still further increased, and that the barbarians may in future beware how they begin lawless deeds against the Greeks. When Leonidas died at Thermopylae, Mardonius and Xerxes cut off his head, and hung his body on a gallows. If you now retaliate upon him the like treatment, you will obtain praise in the first place from all the Spartans, and in the next from the other Greeks; for by impaling the body of Mardonius you will avenge your uncle Leonidas.” Thus spoke Lampon, thinking to earn thanks. But Pausanias answered him thus: “O Aeginetan friend, I esteem your good-will and forethought, but you are deficient in right judgment; for after extolling me, and my country, and my conduct, you would again reduce me to nothing by counselling me to inflict violence upon a dead body; and you say that I should increase my fame by doing that which it is better for barbarians to do rather than Greeks, and what we censure as a crime in them. I then may not earn the approbation of the Aeginetae and those who approve of such a deed; it is enough for me if I please the Spartans by righteous deeds and pious words. As for Leonidas, whom you exhort me to avenge, I say he has already ample vengeance, as well as those who died with him at Thermopylae, in the countless lives here sacrificed. See therefore that you come no more to me with such counsel and suggestion, and consider yourself lucky in departing unpunished.”
At these words Lampon departed; but Pausanias issued a proclamation, forbidding to touch the booty, and commanding the Helots to collect the goods together. They, accordingly, dispersing themselves through the camp, found tents with gold and silver furniture, couches gilded and silvered over, golden cups, and bowls, and other drinking vessels; they found also vessels of gold and silver placed within sacks, upon the baggage-carriages; from the bodies of the surrounding dead they took armlets, and collars, and scimitars, all of gold; but no account was made of garments, however ornamented. On that occasion the Helots purloined many things, many also they delivered up which they could not conceal; what they thus stole they sold to the Aeginetae, and in many instances sold gold as brass; and hence is dated the beginning of the riches of the Aeginetae. When the things of value had been thus collected, the Greeks set apart a tenth for the Delphic Apollo, for Olympian Jupiter, and the Isthmian Neptune. They divided among themselves the remainder (each receiving according to his deserts), the women found in the Persian camp, the gold, the silver, and other valuables, with the beasts of burden. What gifts of honour were allotted to those who had distinguished themselves at Plataea, is not related by any one; I believe, however, that some were allotted. For Pausanias certainly a tenth of everything was reserved as his share, women, horses, gold, camels, and all other things besides. At a subsequent period, however, many of the Plataeans discovered chests of gold and silver and other valuables.
On the following day the corpse of Mardonius was abducted, but by whom I am unable to say with certainty. I have indeed heard the names of many persons, of all descriptions, who are said to have buried Mardonius; and I know that many have received great presents for so doing from Artontes, the son of Mardonius. After the division of the booty, the Greeks buried their own dead, each people in a separate place and after their own fashion, as the Lacedaemonians, Tegeans, Athenians, Megarians and Phliasians; all these had well-filled burying-places. But the tombs of the other nations generally, which are now to be seen near Plataea, are mere empty heaps of earth, they having (as I suppose, through shame at having been absent from the battle) caused them to be raised with a view to impose upon posterity. There is also there a so-called tomb of the Aeginetae, which, as I hear, Clearchus of Plataea, a political friend of the Aeginetae, caused to be raised, at their request, even after the lapse of ten years.
Now when the Greeks had buried their dead near Plataea, they immediately determined in council to march against Thebes and demand the surrender of those who had joined the Persians; before all others, Timegenidas and Attaginus, the chief leaders of that party; and in case of refusal, not to depart from the city until they had taken it. This having been resolved, on the eleventh day after the battle they set out to besiege Thebes; when on their demanding the surrender of the men, the Thebans refused to give them up, they laid waste their lands and attacked their wall. And because these acts of violence did not cease on the twentieth day, Timagenes spoke thus to the Thebans: “Men of Thebes, since the Greeks have resolved not to relinquish the siege before they have taken Thebes, or you have delivered us up, the land of Boeotia shall no longer suffer on our accounts. If then they demand our surrender only as a pretext for getting gold, let us give them gold from our public treasury; for we have Medized in common with the state, and not alone. But if it be us they really want, and therefore besiege you, we are ready to present ourselves to take our trial.” These words seemed good and seasonable; and they immediately informed Pausanias by a messenger, that they were willing to give the men up. After they had agreed on these conditions, Attaginus escaped out of the city; his children being brought out in his stead, Pausanias at once acquitted them, saying, “that children could not be made answerable for the Persian alliance.” The others, however, who surrendered themselves, hoped that they should be allowed to try to justify themselves, and trusted in being able to make good their cause by means of gold. No sooner, however, was Pausanias in possession of them, than, apprehending this result, he conducted them to Corinth, and there had them put to death. And such are the transactions which took place at Plataea and at Thebes.
Let anyone now consider, whether he who thus wrote and thus represented things, had an eye merely to the Greeks, and especially to the Athenians; whether he was guilty of calumny or of courting public favour; and, if it be still necessary to mention the subject, whether he could have read this book with universal applause at Olympia! Scarcely could a narrative of a battle be found which weighs out praise and blame more conscientiously and more convincingly, or which so honestly lays open the delicate threads on which the issue of human actions is suspended. In point of fact, scarcely any greater preference is given to the conqueror than is necessary for the explanation of the victory. If, however, he must be censured, it might more reasonably be objected, that Herodotus has treated the Persians more tenderly than he has the states of Greece. And so indeed the fact must have appeared to the Greeks, who with dazzled eyes adopted in preference the pompous delineations of other historians, and especially of their orators.
I cannot on that account bring myself to allow (what is now asserted) that the work of Herodotus, in addition to its other historical objects, was principally designed “to exhibit in the summit of its fame the Greek history, as displayed in their glorious national victory nor secondly, that “ by his announcement of divine assistance in the attainment of this object, his history may be considered to have an epic character nor lastly, “that the entire mass of his facts and mode of handling them are exhibited in the strict unity of the poetic form”. Just as little does it appear to me that the relation in which the two greatest historians of Greece stand to one another, is at all accurately marked out (much less explained) by assigning to one of them an epic, to the other a critical view of the transactions which they have recorded.
CHAPTER THE NINTH.
HERODOTUS AT THURIUM.
Section I. His relative Position as to Thucydides.
If Herodotus, who even in extreme old age went on writing his work at Thurium, resided there to the end of his life (a thing which hardly admits of a doubt), then must he have contemplated the most important event of the Peloponnesian war from a very short distance, and in some measure have lived amongst it. At the time of his birth Greece was regenerated in the contest with Asia, and the mind of the child was excited by all the joyous incidents which accompanied the rapid development of the strength of his country. But now, in his seventieth year, the old man had before him the sight of his fatherland exhausting itself in internal quarrels, of Athens (which still, however, was called the eye of Greece) gradually sinking, and that, not through any jealous envy of the Deity, but through the wickedness of human insolence which ungratefully squandered the unexampled gifts of the Deity. When Athens, to promote her plan of conquest, began to load her murmuring allies more heavily than heretofore, and exacted a twentieth of the value of all imports and exports, many citizens of the confederate cities left their homes, and sought securer settlements among the Thurians. But the conquest of Sicily, the favourite scheme of Athens, threatened also the tranquillity of Thurium. It was here that Alcibiades escaped from the guards who were sent to conduct the deposed general to the unmerciful tribunal of his fellow-citizens; here also the Athenian party soon triumphed, and the Thurians in the dreadful defeat of the Athenians in Sicily had to lament also the loss of many of their own fellow-citizens.
If the confessedly erroneous notion, that Thucydides died in Italy, had any historical foundation at all, and if at least his temporary residence in those parts were admitted, it then becomes probable that, with a view to his history, he was in that neighbourhood exactly at that critical point of time; and thus these two kindred, but yet dissimilar men, might here have met. Further than this we by no means go. The notion, so suitable to the graceful fancy of the Greeks, of making the young man a scholar of the old historian, and of uniting the ashes of both of them in one tomb (whether it were in the market-place of Thurium, or in the tomb of Cimon before the Melitean gate of Athens), is, in both respects, worked up from the rough historical account, which seldom dares to admit the beautiful at first hand. Moreover, if Herodotus did not make a public recitation at Olympia, the boy Thucydides could not have heard him there, and so those celebrated tears could not have been shed. He might have sojourned a long time in Italy during the period of his banishment, but he probably died in Thrace.
It is a more important question to the historical student, whether Thucydides made an occasional use of the labours of his aged contemporary? This has without hesitation been answered in the affirmative, because the younger historian has, without enquiry, been considered as “the pupil of the elder one, who had published his history in nine books long before.” Some people also have believed that they might be allowed to refer (and certainly in a spirit of censure) some passages of Thucydides to Herodotus; we possess a distinct treatise, in which the relation in which Thucydides stands with respect to his predecessor, receives a circumstantial development. It is here assumed, according to Lucian’s guiding, that Thucydides (as he entered upon the field of history with an entirely different mode of treatment, at a time when the fame of Herodotus had been already settled by the general voice) might have intended to communicate his differing principles only to a small circle of readers, and not to declare them openly. But the enquiry now presents the whole question in a totally different light. Herodotus appears certainly as the senior in years, but by no means as the earlier author, or as he who was first ready with his work, and first submitted it to public approval. It looks much more like an incomplete work (although fully wrought out in the finished parts) left in that state by its author, and somewhat slow in making itself known in Greece, perhaps until Ctesias got acquainted with the book and stigmatized the writer as a falsifier, a charge which has certainly fallen back upon the calumniator. The same fate befell Thucydides, whom death called away before he could complete bis undertaking, which embraced the whole Peloponnesian war, and had occupied him during its entire duration. Both of these extraordinary men lived to a great age (Thucydides was still living in the first year of the 96th Olymp. bc 396, being then seventy-five years old), and yet both of them left their work unfinished.
Certainly, if it were actually true that the half-concealed sallies were intended by Thucydides for Herodotus, then some by-way must be explored by which he might have made use of him, although Herodotus is never to be brought forward as one who could have provoked the cowardly jealousy
The second pan treats of and derides affirmatively the question, “Are there any expressions in the introduction to the History of Thucydides which refer in a disparaging of a brother writer to so disreputable an attack. But it is by no means the feet; since the principal passage, (where Thucydides speaks of himself “as one who was not engaged in a contest for the prize of momentary gratification, but as wishing to leave behind him an enduring work) would scarcely apply at all even if Herodotus had recited at Olympia, for he is said to have read without any competitor; but now the case gives way altogether. Thucydides mentions two historical mistakes which had gained belief as facts among the Greeks, and these are found in Herodotus. Is then a sneer on that account cast upon Herodotus? And could a man, who applied all the energies of his life to his history, be addressed with the contemptuous reflection, “So wearisome does the investigation of truth appear to men in general, who more readily seize upon the good which is nearest at hand!” An allusion also to “Logographers of no authority” has been made to point at Herodotus, although Dionysius Halicarnassus himself refers it rather to the historical writers before Herodotus; Thucydides might indeed, though very erroneously, have thought that no one would ever dare to censure such a man, without first acknowledging his immeasurable merit. But we have already spoken of these pretended sallies, in another place; thus much then may suffice here. Had Thucydides read the work of Herodotus, and (as we may presume to think) esteemed it as it deserved, or at all in proportion to its authority, he would have had many occasions to notice it; and who will believe that the writer, who openly professed to give his judgment of what was actually present would have been restrained by a timidity like that of modem literature! I will not indeed say that Thucydides would have expressed himself less boldly concerning his own subject (the Peloponnesian war) in comparison with the Persian war, had he read it as it is set forth by Herodotus, in all its importance; but I do presume to think, that in such case, he would have learnt better, on one or two points from Herodotus; or that, on the other hand, he would have improved upon him or noticed the same things with him, either expressly and by name (as he has done with respect to Hellanicus) or by pointed implication. In the negotiations which took place before the outbreaking of the Peloponnesian war, the Athenian ambassadors boasted of their exploits in behalf of their common fatherland of Greece in comparison with the Spartans; they asserted that of the combined fleet of four hundred ships at the battle of Salamis, they had furnished nearly two-thirds. Now two-thirds of four hundred would be two hundred and sixty ships. Had Herodotus at that time been, as it is pretended, in every one’s hands and in indisputable esteem, the ambassadors might easily have been put to shame as vain boasters since the Athenians did not send quite a half of three hundred and eighty-two ships, one hundred and eighty being Athenian. Thucydides would have found in Herodotus the exact statement of the respective contributions of ships. On the other hand, the celebrated history of Cylon’s violent attempt upon the liberty of his country, is probably related with more correctness by Thucydides than by Herodotus. The latter differs from the former in two main points of the story; he does not place Cylon even once in possession of the citadel of Athens, and he expressly mentions him as perishing in the unsuccessful attempt. Could Thucydides have dared to expect that his representation would gain credence, if he had the favourite of the nation against him, without having been able to produce any grounds for such variation ? When in the progress of the Peloponnesian war that memorable incursion pressed hard upon Plataea, the brave citizens thereof, in their negotiation with the Spartans, appealed to the solemn declaration of their inviolability, which Pausanias formerly gave them in the presence of the gods, when, after the great victory there won, he was sacrificing to Jupiter Liberator in the forum of Plataea. There would here have been an opportunity for censuring Herodotus, for having entirely passed over in silence this beautiful story of the certainly ill-kept oath, of which other writers also make mention. In the eighth year of the war the Athenians, to the great shame of Sparta, made a conquest of the island of Cythera. It would have been quite in place, had Thucydides here quoted what Herodotus relates, “that it had already been suggested to Xerxes to take possession of this island, so advantageously, as well as so dangerously situated for Lacedaemon, and from this near point to annoy the Spartans.” For the Athenians now exactly put that plan in practice with success, which Xerxes had inconsiderately disdained. The fate of Aristagoras, the instigator of the Ionian insurrection, in connexion with his residence in Thrace, is related with variations by the two historians; and in this case probably Herodotus, who speaks with decision, was acquainted more accurately with the circumstances of the transaction. Moreover, Herodotus might have made the place where Aristagoras perished (whose ancient name of “the Nine-ways” was well known to him) intelligible to every Greek, by adding the remark “that it is the place where the celebrated Amphipolis is now situated.” But Amphipolis was not built till the year 437 bc, and therefore after the time at which Herodotus chose a residence at a distance from Greece. I must not venture into any farther details upon this subject, otherwise many passages of a similar kind still remain to be examined. I will, however, make one remark more; if Herodotus, without any real ’merit, had been the popular historian he is represented to have been, then have we also a right to expect to see him play a part on occasions relating to the laws of states and popular rights. But where is there any trace of his work having been cited, like the poem of Homer, as a voucher for some political object ? An opportunity for doing so was at one time very near; the people of Argos required of the Spartans the restitution of the district of Cynuria as the condition of renewing peace: at least they demanded that they should once more contend for it (as was done in the time of their fathers) by combatants chosen from both sides. Herodotus gives a detailed account of the old contest; why then did they not appeal to him? The new dispute occurs in the interval between the first and second Peloponnesian war; for so, it seems, one may express oneself, although Thucydides, looking more to the internal connexion between the wars than to the space of six years and ten months which separated them, very earnestly insists, that the first war of more than ten years' duration, should be considered as one and the same with the second of equal length.
The form of the two works exhibits as little appearance, as do their contents, of any influence of one upon the other, still less of any pattern, which Thucydides had before him, and which (as some pretend) he, by skilful management, might have surpassed. I know not whether it may be owing to my” prosaic virion, but to me it seems that each of them chose the means and form of representation which suited his matter, and whilst thus setting out from that which was judicious, he laboured in pursuit of what was true, each at the same time acquired a beauty which seems unattainable, because it is without effort and his own. Herodotus was far more fortunate than Thucydides in the abundance of materials adapted for the display of beauty; and even the unfinished form in which a great part of his narratives is bequeathed to us, has invested his representation with a peculiar charm. This however does not form the highest merit in an historian; and as to a great part of his ancient accounts, it had been better had he not thought himself obliged to write them at all, or at least, as he has written them. To strip off the drapery of oral tradition, and to examine the cold and naked foundling by the scale of chronology, was a work of art not after his mind. Thucydides, although a soldier by profession, was hardly mistaken in thinking, that though a more showy appearance might be made, and the prize of a transitory gratification more easily won by relating attractive stories, after the manner of poets, and by leaving chronology out of the question as a secondary thing; yet everyone who wished to know clearly the subject-matter in its truth, would thank the historian for arranging cotemporaneous events methodically (though the method itself might not be beautiful), and for dividing the narrative by half years into summer and winter. Transactions were indeed sometimes divided thereby in the middle, and things of a most interesting nature were interrupted by matters of indifference; yet was it a mode of proceeding which, though now-a-days not to be recommended, was at that time the only one at hand, calculated to present at once a distinct and a connected survey of the Grecian states as a whole. For every state followed at once its own course of proceeding, and the supreme annual authorities of the various states entered upon their office at different times of the year. The convenient aid of reckoning by Olympiads was not yet found out, at least had taken no hold on the business of life. The year, therefore, with its natural length, and its division into halves, was the only common ground for purposes of reckoning, even though the internal arrangement of it, to the very names of the months, was everywhere different. This grand division of the year into summer and winter was soon found to be adapted to the history of a war, since the principal enterprises occur in summer-time. If then the uniform war-pace of Thucydides is far inferior in agreeableness to the light-limbed movements of the Thurian, both writers find here their appropriate praise. It redounds particularly to the credit of Thucydides that he did not at all pursue that which in the historian is rightly compared to the epic arrangement, though not rightly referred to an epic aim and object; because without this he has been able to arrive at a higher degree of truth than he could have done with it. But on the other hand, we should not form a mistaken judgment in saying that Herodotus was superior to his cotemporary in the natural talent for forming a justly-proportioned whole. I at least am astonished at hearing Herodotus constantly censured for his episodes, which yet almost universally are connected with his main object, and are inserted into their places with a beauty which in so high a degree distinguishes them. Whereas, in my opinion, the celebrated episode of the highest excellence which Thucydides presents, bears evidence of a carelessness of manner even in its introduction and mode of insertion. The historian gives us an account of the attempt which, long before the Peloponnesian war, Cylon made to get possession of the supreme power in Athens; a statement which certainly belonged to the matter in hand, because the Spartans at the time wished to make use of that occurrence for the overthrow of Pericles; that statesman, whom they so much dreaded, being descended from the family which, by the murder of the partisans of Cylon, had polluted themselves and defiled the temple of the gods. To this is attached a still longer narrative of the treachery and the punishment of Pausanias; yet this also may be said to belong to the subject, because the Athenians had made a counterclaim upon the Spartans that they also should banish those individuals who had polluted their temple of Minerva by the death of Pausanias. This episode occupies seven chapters. But still a third story is appended to the episode, being an account of the concluding fortunes of Themistocles, who had formerly been implicated by the Spartans in the charge against Pausanias, in consequence of certain proofs against him which were said to have been discovered in the possession of Pausanias. The persecution of Themistocles by the Athenians, his flight from Greece, and his final destiny, are related in a copious and authenticated form in four more chapters. Were we in possession of the Atthis of Hellanicus, we should probably perceive more clearly why Thucydides sought an opportunity of interweaving this narrative with his history. But nevertheless it is unsuited to the place where it stands, and has thereby even occasioned the excellent translator Heitmann to fall into a gross anachronism; for he gives such a meaning to his translation as would certainly justify the entire insertion; viz. that now for the first time, just before the Peloponnesian war, the Spartans demanded, by way of recrimination, the public trial of Themistocles, who had then been a long time dead! Ancient critics have greatly admired the perspicuous development of these narratives, though perhaps their observation, “The lion has here for once relaxed into a smile,” applied, as it is, to the whole episode, might not indicate simple commendation. In a similar manner in the sixth book, just when we are on the stretch to learn how the Sicilian expedition will turn out, and above all, how it will fare with Alcibiades, who is being hurried off as a prisoner to Athens, an episode, after the manner of novels, is introduced concerning the Pisistratidae. Here also a widely-spread misconception is corrected, which had been adverted to in an earlier passage; the slight thread, however, which connects these ancient transactions with Alcibiades, consists solely of a remark upon the ever suspicious jealousy of the Athenians, lest from any quarter a tyranny should threaten them ; they had learnt, forsooth, by hearsay that the dominion of Pisistratus and his sons had at last become cruel, that it had also been put an end to, not by Harmodius with the aid of private individuals, but by the Lacedaemonians. This gives him occasion to speak more circumstantially on the subject, because “neither others nor the Athenians themselves” could give correct information concerning their tyrants and their expulsion. This opinion, which leads to a long digression, cannot but be considered as somewhat forced. One remark, however, presses itself upon us; Hellanicus probably (as well as Clidemus) had committed this mistake, and represented Hipparchus as tyrant of Athens; but all the historians did not share in the error, at least not Herodotus, who in his detailed account of these matters calls Hipparchus “the son of Pisistratus and brother of the tyrant Hippias” but not tyrant himself. Thucydides, who, it is pretended, made so many sallies against Herodotus, might here perhaps have regarded him with approbation. Moreover if Herodotus were really “the universally-read popular historian,” then the Athenians must have known something more of these matters than what was collected from hearsay.
Section II. The Assyrian History of Herodotus.
Bu we leave for the present a subject full of rich materials, in order, though so near our conclusion, to enquire about a work which Herodotus twice promised, his History of Assyria. It is quite settled that the Life of Homer which was formerly attributed to Herodotus, does not belong to him; but the question respecting his Assyrian History, whether any such ever existed, is not to be answered without difficulty. The fact that the principal work itself is left unfinished, speaks against it; since it was so much the less likely that the aged man should have ventured upon a second labour. With respect to Ctesias, the confused and unfair censurer of Herodotus (whose history is not much later in point of time), we might give him credit if he had only made Astyages the father-in-law of Cyrus; had made Darius spend only fifteen days in the land of Scythia; and given only eight hundred thousand men and one thousand ships to Xerxes in Greece! Yet even this Ctesias, in his multifarious censure, has noticed only that work of Herodotus which we possess, especially the Persian history, but has never noticed any book of his concerning Assyria; and yet the first six books of Ctesias treated of Assyrian transactions, and others previous to the Persian dominion. Certainly a passage in Aristotle’s History of Animals seems at first sight to prove that he, a man of universal acquaintance with the literature of his country, had actually read an Assyrian History of Herodotus; for to his remark that “crooked-clawed birds live entirely without drinking,” he adds the censure (according to the received text) upon Herodotus, “that he did not know that fact, but, in his account of the siege of Nineveh, has described an eagle drinking.” And, singularly enough, Herodotus does directly promise to give the narrative of the conquest of the city of Ninus in another history, and, soon after, declares his intention of mentioning the kings of Babylon in the Assyrian Histories. Aristotle’s expression “hath made or described after the manner of poets,” appears somewhat strange, yet may perhaps be justified even when used of an historian, particularly when he is charged with a mistake. However, two distinguished manuscripts, and old translations of equal value with them, have determined the French scholar Camus (who has deserved so well of Aristotle), and after him Schneider, to admit “Hesiodus” into the text instead of “Herodotus”. Possibly the circumstance that the passage is not to be found in our Herodotus may actually have caused the name of Hesiod to be inserted in some manuscripts. At all events (since it is not to be supposed of Aristotle, that he could have taken a very recent history for a work of Hesiod) the conquest of Nineveh, here alluded to, may not have been that of Cyaxares the Mede, which Herodotus intends; but rather, according to the reckoning of Ctesias, that which happened in the time of Sardanapalus; provided, that is, that the one is distinct from the other.
Concerning “the Assyrian history,” therefore, the question remains open for each one’s judgment, whether it should be decided to have been a separate work in the proper sense of the expression, or only an episode intended to be inserted in the History at a subsequent period. I, at least, do not venture upon a decision. If, however, Aristotle ever actually read such a work, then is the loss of it so much the more to be lamented, because the subject matter of it would have led Herodotus on many occasions to the ancient history of Phoenicia. Carthage also would then probably not be dismissed with meagre notice.
Section III. The Conclusion of his Life.
Of the circumstances of the old age of Herodotus, history has nothing to record; as little does it know of his children, if he had any, or of his collateral relations. Lygdamis, the tyrant of Halicarnassus, had long before put to death the epic writer Panyasis, his paternal or maternal undo. Herodotus must have been childless, if it be true that he made a young favourite, Plesirrhous, his heir. This same person, a Thessalian by birth, and a writer of hymns, is also said to have written the opening sentence of his history, whereas originally the work began with the words which now form the second period : “Now the historical writers of the Persians say that the blame of the quarrel rested upon the Phoenicians.” In this case Herodotus would have commenced his history with an unmeaning statement. But almost all these literary anecdotes are fallacious, and this amongst the rest. For this gleaner of strange things, who has picked up this story, relates also that Herodotus has purposely suppressed in his Lydian History, the name of the beautiful wife of king Candaules (that name being Nyssia), in consequence of a mournful recollection connected with it; since his beloved Plesirrhous hung himself from an unhappy passion for a Halicarnassian beauty of the same name. The one anecdote annihilates the other; and we can scarcely venture to consider this Plesirrhous as the editor of the great historical bequest of his father-like friend. Perhaps we should have known more on this point, had it not been for the dreadful discomfiture which the flourishing community of Thurium sustained from the rude Lucanians, who cut off from the young state above ten thousand fighting men; that is, more than two thirds of the population capable of bearing arms, which it had acquired in half a century. This misfortune, combined with the afflictions which the ambitious views of Dionysius about the same time brought upon the Greek-Italian cities, was probably the very cause why the fame of the master-work of the Thurian (who died before those days of affliction), did not sooner force its way into the mother-country.
Certainly it is not possible to say to what length the life of Herodotus may have extended; but we may fairly assign to him an old age of honour and respect. The man who could undertake such extensive travels in those days, was doubtless blessed with the gifts of fortune; and a knowledge of the world, and temperate sentiments, like his, would command a welcome everywhere. But especially may we think thus of him on account of that cheerful activity with which we see one so far advanced in years still busily employing himself on the great monument of his life. No state of life indeed is exempt from misfortunes, sufficient to shew what importance we attribute to them; but he may well be pronounced happy, who at seventy, or even eighty years of age, has yet mental light and strength remaining to compose a work that can enlighten thousands of years.