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The History Of Herodotus Volume 1 of 2

Page: 147

23. Then when the Ichthyophagoi asked the king in return about the length of days and the manner of life of his people, he answered that the greater number of them reached the age of a hundred and twenty years, and some surpassed even this; and their food was boiled flesh and their drink was milk. And when the spies marvelled at the number of years, he conducted them to a certain spring, in the water of which they washed and became more sleek of skin, as if it were a spring of oil; and from it there came a scent as it were of violets: and the water of this spring, said the spies, was so exceedingly weak that it was not possible for anything to float upon it, either wood or any of those things which are lighter than wood, but they all went to the bottom. If this water which they have be really such as it is said to be, it would doubtless be the cause why the people are long-lived, as making use of it for all the purposes of life. Then when they departed from this spring, he led them to a prison-house for men, and there all were bound in fetters of gold. Now among these Ethiopians bronze is the rarest and most precious of all things. Then when they had seen the prison-house they saw also the so-called table of the Sun:

24, and after this they saw last of all their receptacles of dead bodies, which are said to be made of crystal in the following manner:—when they have dried the corpse, whether it be after the Egyptian fashion or in some other way, they cover it over completely with plaster 21 and then adorn it with painting, making the figure as far as possible like the living man. After this they put about it a block of crystal hollowed out; for this they dig up in great quantity and it is very easy to work: and the dead body being in the middle of the block is visible through it, but produces no unpleasant smell nor any other effect which is unseemly, and it has all its parts visible like the dead body itself. For a year then they who are most nearly related to the man keep the block in their house, giving to the dead man the first share of everything and offering to him sacrifices: and after this period they carry it out and set it up round about the city.

25. After they had seen all, the spies departed to go back; and when they reported these things, forthwith Cambyses was enraged and proceeded to march his army against the Ethiopians, not having ordered any provision of food nor considered with himself that he was intending to march an army to the furthest extremities of the earth; but as one who is mad and not in his right senses, when he heard the report of the Ichthyophagoi he began the march, ordering those of the Hellenes who were present to remain behind in Egypt, and taking with him his whole land force: and when in the course of his march he had arrived at Thebes, he divided off about fifty thousand of his army, and these he enjoined to make slaves of the Ammonians and to set fire to the seat of the Oracle of Zeus, but he himself with the remainder of his army went on against the Ethiopians. But before the army had passed over the fifth part of the way, all that they had of provisions came to an end completely; and then after the provisions the beasts of burden also were eaten up and came to an end. Now if Cambyses when he perceived this had changed his plan and led his army back, he would have been a wise man in spite of 22 his first mistake; as it was, however, he paid no regard, but went on forward without stopping. The soldiers accordingly, so long as they were able to get anything from the ground, prolonged their lives by eating grass; but when they came to the sand, some did a fearful deed, that is to say, out of each company of ten they selected by lot one of themselves and devoured him: and Cambyses, when he heard it, being alarmed by this eating of one another gave up the expedition against the Ethiopians and set forth to go back again; and he arrived at Thebes having suffered loss of a great number of his army. Then from Thebes he came down to Memphis and allowed the Hellenes to sail away home.


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