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The History Of Herodotus Volume 1 of 2

Page: 70

204. On the West then of this Sea which is called Caspian the Caucasus is the boundary, while towards the East and the rising sun a plain succeeds which is of limitless extent to the view. Of this great plain then the Massagetai occupy a large part, against whom Cyrus had become eager to march; for there were many strong reasons which incited him to it and urged him onwards,—first the manner of his birth, that is to say the opinion held of him that he was more than a mere mortal man, and next the success which he had met with 215 in his wars, for whithersoever Cyrus directed his march, it was impossible for that nation to escape.

205. Now the ruler of the Massagetai was a woman, who was queen after the death of her husband, and her name was Tomyris. To her Cyrus sent and wooed her, pretending that he desired to have her for his wife: but Tomyris understanding that he was wooing not herself but rather the kingdom of the Massagetai, rejected his approaches: and Cyrus after this, as he made no progress by craft, marched to the Araxes, and proceeded to make an expedition openly against the Massagetai, forming bridges of boats over the river for his army to cross, and building towers upon the vessels which gave them passage across the river.

206. While he was busied about this labour, Tomyris sent a herald and said thus: "O king of the Medes, cease to press forward the work which thou art now pressing forward; for thou canst not tell whether these things will be in the end for thy advantage or no; cease to do so, I say, and be king over thine own people, and endure to see us ruling those whom we rule. Since however I know that thou wilt not be willing to receive this counsel, but dost choose anything rather than to be at rest, therefore if thou art greatly anxious to make trial of the Massagetai in fight, come now, leave that labour which thou hast in yoking together the banks of the river, and cross over into our land, when we have first withdrawn three days' journey from the river: or if thou desirest rather to receive us into your land, do thou this same thing thyself." Having heard this Cyrus called together the first men among the Persians, and having gathered these together he laid the matter before them for discussion, asking their advice as to which of the two things he should do: and their opinions all agreed in one, bidding him receive Tomyris and her army into his country.

207. But Croesus the Lydian, being present and finding fault with this opinion, declared an opinion opposite to that which had been set forth, saying as follows: "O king, I told thee in former time also, that since Zeus had given me over to thee, I would avert according to my power whatever occasion of falling I might see coming near thy house: and now my sufferings, which have been bitter, 216 have proved to be lessons of wisdom to me. If thou dost suppose that thou art immortal and that thou dost command an army which is also immortal, it will be of no use for me to declare to thee my judgment; but if thou hast perceived that thou art a mortal man thyself and dost command others who are so likewise, then learn this first, that for the affairs of men there is a revolving wheel, and that this in its revolution suffers not the same persons always to have good fortune. I therefore now have an opinion about the matter laid before us, which is opposite to that of these men: for if we shall consent to receive the enemy into our land, there is for thee this danger in so doing:—if thou shalt be worsted thou wilt lose in addition all thy realm, for it is evident that if the Massagetai are victors they will not turn back and fly, but will march upon the provinces of thy realm; and on the other hand if thou shalt be the victor, thou wilt not be victor so fully as if thou shouldest overcome the Massagetai after crossing over into their land and shouldest pursue them when they fled. For against that which I said before I will set the same again here, and say that thou, when thou hast conquered, wilt march straight against the realm of Tomyris. Moreover besides that which has been said, it is a disgrace and not to be endured that Cyrus the son of Cambyses should yield to a woman and so withdraw from her land. Now therefore it seems good to me that we should cross over and go forward from the crossing as far as they go in their retreat, and endeavour to get the better of them by doing as follows:—The Massagetai, as I am informed, are without experience of Persian good things, and have never enjoyed any great luxuries. Cut up therefore cattle without stint and dress the meat and set out for these men a banquet in our camp: moreover also provide without stint bowls of unmixed wine and provisions of every kind; and having so done, leave behind the most worthless part of thy army and let the rest begin to retreat from the camp towards the river: for if I am not mistaken in my judgment, they when they see a quantity of good things will fall to the feast, and after that it remains for us to display great deeds."


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