Stories of the East From Herodotus - Alfred J. Church

Of Certain Other Kings of Egypt

After Rhampsinitus there reigned a certain Cheops; and this king did very wickedly, forbidding the people to do sacrifice to the Gods, and making them labour on certain works which he had set in hand. For it was this Cheops that built the greatest of the pyramids. First he made a causeway, five furlongs long and ten fathoms wide, and in height where it is highest eight fathoms. This causeway was for the carrying of the stones. And these stones were cut from quarries in the Arabian hills, and being drawn to the river were carried across by men appointed for that purpose. And afterwards yet other companies of men drew them to the hills that are on the Libyan side. The number of those that worked was one hundred thousand men, and when they had laboured for three months there came another hundred. thousand in their room. The causeway was ten years in building and the pyramid twenty. And when it was finished there was written an inscription on it, saying how much had been spent on radishes, and onions, and garlic for them that built it, and the sum was sixteen hundred talents of silver. How much then must have been the cost of the tools of iron that were used in the work, and of the food and clothing of the men! This Cheops reigned fifty years, and after him, Cephrenes, his brother, reigned fifty years and six months, and behaved himself in the same wicked way, oppressing the people and forbidding to worship the Gods. This Cephrenes also built a pyramid for himself, but it was not equal to the pyramid of his brother.

And when Cephrenes was dead, there reigned the son of King Cheops, Mycerinus by name. This man walked not in the ways of his father, but opened the temples, and eased the people, who were now sorely afflicted by their burdens, that they might go about their own business and do sacrifice to the Gods. Also he gave more righteous judgment in all matters than any of the kings of Egypt before him. And not only did he judge righteously, but if any man, his cause having been tried, was nevertheless not satisfied, he would give him of his own substance, even to the full of his desire. Nevertheless to this Mycerinus, though he dealt gently with his people and was just in all his ways, there happened great calamities. For first of all his daughter died, being his only child. For her, wishing to bury her as none other had ever been buried, he contrived a tomb after this fashion. He made the image of a heifer, of wood and hollow, and gilded it over. In this he buried his daughter, and this was not put into the earth but kept in the temple. And one day in every year they carry it out into the light of day, for they say that the daughter of Mycerinus, when she lay dying, entreated of her father that she might see the sun once in every year. And after the death of his daughter there befell him this second trouble. There came to him an oracle from the city of Buto that he should live six years only, and die in the seventh. Then was the King very wroth, and sent to the god, reproaching him with these words. "My father and my uncle shut the temples, and kept not the gods in remembrance, and oppressed the people, yet did the gods give them long life. And lo! because I am righteous, I must die in my youth." But the oracle answered him again, saying, "Thou diest before thy time because thou doest that which thou shouldest not do. For the will of the gods is that Egypt should be afflicted for one hundred and fifty years. Now the two kings that were before thee knew this thing, but thou knowest it not." When King Mycerinus heard it, knowing that a sentence that should not be changed had gone out against him, he did this. He gave himself up to feasting and all manner of delights, and ceased not either day or night. And that the night might be unto him as the day, he made many lamps, and lighted them so soon as darkness fell upon the earth. And this he did, going from place to place among the woods and wheresoever he heard that there were the pleasantest resorts. Now the reason for which he did this was, that he might show the oracle to have spoken falsely. For this had said that he should live six years only, but he said to himself, "If I live not the days only but the nights also, then shall my years be not six but twelve." This Mycerinus also built a pyramid, but smaller by far than the pyramid of his father.



After Rhampsinitus came King Asychis. In his days there was so great poverty in Egypt that the King made a law that a man might borrow, giving as security the dead body of his father. And if a man paid not the debt, then it should not be lawful to bury him in the tomb of his fathers, or in any tomb whatsoever; and that none of those who were begotten of him should be so buried. This King, wishing to surpass all the kings that had been before him, built a pyramid of brick, with these words written upon it: "Despise me not, when thou lookest at the pyramids of stone, for I surpass these, so much as Zeus surpasseth the other gods. For the King built me thus. When men put poles into the lake, the mud that stuck to the poles they gathered together, and made bricks thereof. So was I built."

After Asychis there reigned a blind man, by name Anysis. In his days Sabacon, King of the Ethiopians, came into Egypt with a great army, and subdued it, and reigned over it for the space of fifty years. But Anysis, the blind King, fled into the marshes, and there made for himself an island of earth and ashes, rising above the waters. For it was so that when one of the Egyptians came to him with food—and this they did without the knowledge of Sabacon—he brought also a gift of earth and ashes. So the island was made. And at the end of fifty years Sabacon dreamed a dream. He saw in his dream a man standing over him and counselling him to gather together all the priests that were in Egypt and cut them asunder. Then King Sabacon judged that the interpretation of the dream was this: that doing some wickedness in holy things he should suffer punishment either from god or man. Therefore he knew that the time was come when he should not reign any more over the land of Egypt. And, indeed, when he was yet in Ethiopia the oracles which the Ethiopians use had told him that he should reign over Egypt fifty years. And now, the time being fulfilled, and the dream troubling him, he departed again of his own accord ins: the land of Ethiopia.

Next unto Anysis there reigned Sethon, who was a priest of the god Hephæstus. This King held the fighting men of Egypt in no esteem, as thinking that he had no need of them, and, over and above other things, he took away from them the lands which the kings before him had given them. After this it befell that Sanacharibis, King of Arabia and Assyria, came against him with a great army; and the fighting men of the Egyptians would not come to his help. Wherefore, Sethon, the priest, being in a great strait, came into the temple and wept before the image, showing his trouble. And as he wept he dreamed a dream. He saw the god standing over him, and the god bade him be of good heart, for that he should suffer no harm from the army of the Arabians, for that he himself would send them that should help him. Then the King, trusting in these words, took with him such of the Egyptians as were willing to follow him, and pitched his camp in Pelusium. Now of fighting men he had not one, but hucksters only and handicraftsmen, and such as are found in the market-place. And when the two armies were encamped over against one another, there came a great multitude of field mice into the comap of the Arabians, and devoured their quivers, and the strings of their bows, and the handles also of their shields, so that they fled before the Egyptians, being without arms, and many of them were slain. For this reason the image of this King stands in the temple of Hepæstus, having a mouse in his hand, and this inscription: "LET ALL MEN LOOK ON ME, AND LEARN TO REVERENCE THE GODS."



When Sethon was dead, the Egyptians set up twelve Kings for without Kings thy could not endure to live, dividing the whole land into twelve parts. These made marriages among themselves, and established it for a law, that non should seek to have more than another, nor do any harm to another, but that they should live in all peace and friendship. Now it had been declared to the twelve Kings when they were first established in their kingdoms, that whosoever of them should pour out a libation from a cup of brass should reighn over the whole land of Egypt. And it came to pass that the Kings, having for a long time dealt righteously one with the other, were assembled together in the temple of Hephæstus, for it was their custom to assemble themselves at the temples in order. And on the last day of the feast, when they were about to pour out a libation, the high priest brought out to them cups of gold, for such were they wont to use. But it so chanced that he missed the number, and brought out eleven cups only, there being twelve Kings. Now a certain Psammetichus was one of the twelve. This man, as he chanced on that day to stand last of the twelve, and so had not a cup, took the helmet of brass which he wore upon his head and used it as a cup, pouring out from it a libation. But not he only but all the twelve also had helmets of brass upon their heads. This did Psammetichus without any evil purpose in his mind. But when the other Kings saw the thing which he had done they called to mind the oracle, how it had been foretold to them that he who should pour out a libation from a cup of brass should be King over the whole land of Egypt. Now they thought it not just to slay Psammetichus, having found, when they enquired into the matter, that he had no ill purpose in his heart, but they took from him the most of his power, and banished him into the marshes, and commanded that he should not come forth from the marshes into any part of the land of Egypt. Then Psammetichus, thinking that the eleven Kings had dealt unrighteously with him, bethought him how he might best avenge himself on them.

Wherefore he sent to the city of Buto to the oracle of Latona, for this oracle the Egyptians hold to be the most truth-speaking of all the oracles in their land. And the oracle answered him with these words: "Thou shalt have vengeance when there come men of brass from the sea." But Psammetichus could by no means believe that men of brass should come to him as helpers. Notwithstanding, after a while it so chanced that certain men of Ionia and Caria, sailing about to get such plunder as they might light upon, came to the land of Egypt, and disembarked from their ships. These men were clad in armour of brass, and one of the Egyptians seeing them went with all haste to Psammetichus, where he dwelt in the marshes, and told him that men of brass had come from the sea, and were plundering the land, for never before had they seen men clad in such armour. But when Psammetichus heard it, he perceived that the oracle was fulfilled. Wherefore he sent to the men of Ionia and Caria, and made a league of friendship with them, and promising them many and great rewards, sought to persuade them to be on his side. And having persuaded them, he gathered together also such of the Egyptians as favoured him, and using these strangers as helpers, so subdued the eleven Kings. And when he had conquered the whole land of Egypt, he gave to these men of Caria and Ionia places wherein they might dwell. And these places were over against each other, the Nile being between them, and the name of them was the Camps. Also he fulfilled to them all the other promises which he had made. Besides, he put with them certain children of the Egyptians who should learn the Greek tongue; and from them that so learnt it came the interpreters that are in the land of Egypt. This place which they call the Camps is not far from the sea, on that mouth of the Nile which they call the Pelusian; and the men of Ionia and Caria dwelt therein for many years till King Amasis, of whom we shall speak hereafter, took them thence, and removed them to Memphis, where he made of them a body-guard for himself against the Egyptians. This Psammetichus reigned fifty and three years. And of these fifty and three years he was twenty and nine besieging Azotus, which is a great city in the region of Syria, until he took it. Nor was there ever a city which held out so long being besieged as did this city of Azotus.



The son of this Psammetichus was Neco. King Neco was he who sought to make the canal from the Great Sea into the Red Sea, the same that Darius the Persian made again after him. The length of the canal is a four days sail; and as for its breadth, two three-banked ships of war, being rowed with oars, may pass therein. This canal is filled with water of the Nile. There died in the digging of this canal, in the days of King Neco, one hundred and twenty thousand men. But Neco finished it not, but ceased in the midst of his digging, because of an oracle which hindered him, saying, "That which thou doest thou doest for the barbarians." Now the Egyptians call all men barbarians that speak not the same tongue with themselves. But Neco when he had ceased from digging the canal turned his thoughts to battles and wars. And he made ships of war, some to sail on the Great Sea, and others to sail on the Red Sea. These he used when he had need. Also he had an army by land, and fought with the Syrians at Megiddo, and when the Syrians fled before him, he took Cadytis, which is a great city in those parts. And the garment which he chanced to wear when he took it he offered up to Apollo at Branchidæ of the Milesians. When Neco had reigned sixteen years he died, and Psammis his son reigned in his stead.

In the days of King Psammis there came certain men of Elis into Egypt. These men boasted that no men ordered anything more nobly and righteously than they themselves ordered the games in Olympia, and that the Egyptians, for all that they were the wisest of men, could not find out aught by which this ordering might be made better. But when King Psammis heard how these men of Elis were come talking in this fashion, he assembled those that were counted wisest among the Egyptians. Then the Egyptians came together, and enquired of the men of Elis all that it was the custom for them to do in the matter of these games. And the men of Elis told them everything in order, and said that they were come to Egypt to learn whether anything could be added to their ordinances. Then the wise men of Egypt took counsel together, and asked the men of Elis, "Do your own countrymen contend in these games?" And when the men of Elis made answer that it was lawful for their citizens, as indeed for all the Greeks, to contend therein, the Egyptians replied that in making their ordinances they had altogether failed of what was just and right: "For it cannot be," said they, "but that in this matter you will prefer your own citizen when he contendeth in these games, and do wrong to the stranger. If then ye would order them righteously, and are come to Egypt that ye may learn how to do this thing, make this law for your games, that strangers only shall contend therein." This is the answer which the Egyptians made to the men of Elis.

Psammis reigned six years, and in the seventh year he went out to war with the Ethiopians; but died on the way, and Apries his son reigned in his stead. This Apries prospered more than all the kings of Egypt before him save only Psammetichus, his grandfather. He made war with the Sidonians and vanquished them; also he sent his fleet against the fleet of the men of Tyre, who are mighty sailors, and had the upper hand. Thus he prospered for twenty and five years. But when it was ordained that he should be afflicted, evil came upon him in this way. He made war with the men of Cyrene, and was grievously worsted, losing the greater part of his army. And the Egyptians were wroth with him, and rebelled against him, for they said that he had lost these men of set purpose in order that his kingdom might be the more firmly established over the remnant of the people. For which reason such as returned alive from the war and the friends of them that had died rebelled against him. When Apries heard of the matter he sent Amasis, who was one of his captains, to speak with the rebels and persuade them. So Amasis went to them; but as he spake with them, persuading them, a certain man came behind him and put a helmet on his head, crying out that he had crowned him king. And the thing pleased Amasis, for so soon as the rebels had made him king, he made ready to march against Apries. But Apries, when he knew it, sent a certain Patarbemis, who was one of those that waited upon him continually, a man noble and of good repute, and commanded that he take Amasis alive and bring him. But when Patarbemis bade Amasis return with him to the King, the man did but scoff at him in an unseemly fashion. Not-withstanding, Patarbemis was urgent with him that he should obey the King's commandment and come. Whereupon Amasis made answer, "Verily, I have long since purposed to come; nor shall the King have the ordering of my coming, for I will bring many others also with me." And Patarbemis understood the matter; seeing also that Amasis was making ready to march, he departed in all haste, for he would have the King know what had befallen as speedily as might be. But when Apries saw that he returned and brought not Amasis with him, he took no thought, but falling forthwith into a great passion of anger, bade that they should cut off the man's nose and ears. But when the Egyptians that had held with the King saw what had been done, how a man of good repute beyond all others had been shamefully entreated, they also rebelled against the King, and followed Amasis. Then the King armed his hired soldiers, for he had hired soldiers about him, men of Ionia and Caria, thirty thousand in all, and marched against the Egyptians. And the two armies were set in order against each other, near to the city of Momemphis.

And when the battle was joined, the hired soldiers quitted themselves bravely, but nevertheless were worsted, for the Egyptians were more numerous by many times. Thus did Apries fall from his kingdom, from the which he had thought that not even the Gods could cast him down, so did he trust in his strength. And being thus vanquished in battle, he was taken alive and brought to the city of Saïs, to his own house, that was now the palace of King Amasis. And for a while Amasis kept him in the palace, treating him with all honour. But when the Egyptians murmured against him, saying that he did wrong having such respect to one that was his enemy and the enemy of the people, then the King gave up Apries to the Egyptians, and these strangled him. But when he was dead the people buried him in the sepulchres of his fathers. These are in the temple of Athené, hard by the sanctuary, on the left hand of one that entereth the temple. Here also is the tomb of Amasis, but further from the sanctuary, very large and noble, with pillars carved into the likeness of palm-trees, and other sumptuous adornments.

So Amasis reigned over the land of Egypt. And at the first the Egyptians despised him and held him of small account, because he had been one of themselves, and because his house was of little repute in the land. But he brought them over to himself, not indeed by dealing harshly with them, but by his subtlety. He had among his possessions—for he was very rich—a footbath of gold, in which he and his guests were wont to wash their feet before they feasted. This vessel of gold he brake up, and made there from an image of a god, and set up this image in that place of the city whither men most resorted. And all the Egyptians, when they heard that an image of gold was set up, visited it and worshipped it greatly. And when King Amasis knew that they thus worshipped it, he called them together, and spake to them, saying, "See now this image, which was of old a footbath and put to unclean uses, but now is greatly worshipped by you all. Know, therefore, that it is with me as it hath been with this gold. For before I was one of you, but now I am your King. Therefore must you do me such honour as is meet for a King." In this manner he brought over the Egyptians so that they served him willingly.

His manner of life was this. He would rise very early in the morning, and would do the business of his kingdom with much zeal and despatch until the time when the market-place begins to fill, which is before noonday. But after this he would drink and make merry with such as sat at talk with him, jesting with them even in unseemly fashion. This his friends took very ill, and counselled him that he should change his ways, saying, "O King, thou dost not well keep thy state and dignity, thus abasing thyself to things common and unseemly. Rather shouldst thou sit in great state upon thy throne throughout the day, and so do the business of thy kingdom. So would the Egyptians know that they are ruled by a great King, and thou wouldst be in better repute. For now thou dost not behave thyself like unto a King." To them King Amasis made this answer: "They that have bows, when they need to use them, bend them, but when they need them not, loose them. For did they bend them always, the bows would be broken. So is it also with a man. If he give himself up to work without ceasing, and indulge not himself on occasion in sport and pastime, it must needs be that madness or disease will come upon him unawares. And because I know this, I do each thing in its season." In these words did King Amasis make answer to his friends when they counselled him.

This Amasis, before he came to the kingdom, was ever a lover of mirth and jesting, and one that cared not to concern himself with serious business. And when he had exhausted his substance, drinking and making merry, he would go about and steal. Then those from whom he had stolen would take him to some oracle, according as one or another might chance to be at hand. And often he was judged to be guilty by the oracle, and often he was acquitted. When therefore he came to the kingdom he did this. To such of the gods as had acquitted him, saying that he was not a thief, he paid no honour, neither sacrificing in their temples nor adorning their shrines with gifts, for he thought that they were not worthy of respect, having lying oracles only. But them that had declared him guilty of theft, these he counted to be true gods, and to have truth-speaking oracles, and held them in great honour.

There was not one of the gods whom he honoured more than Athené, building a gate-way for her temple at Saïs of stones very large and fair, and adorning it also with great statues, and with images, of which the forepart was like unto a man, and the hinder part unto a lion. Of the stones some he brought from the quarries of Memphis and others, the mightiest of all, from the island of Elephantine, which is twenty and two days' sail from Saïs. And of all the marvels in this place there is none greater than this, a chamber hewn out of a single stone. This stone was fetched from Elephantine. Three years were they in fetching it, and the number of the men that did it was three thousand, pilots all of them. This chamber is twenty and one cubits long, and fourteen broad, and eight high. This is the measure of the chamber from without; and from within it is nineteen cubits or thereabouts, and twelve, and five. This chamber is near the entering in of the temple, for they never brought it into the temple. And the reason why they brought it not in is this, that the architect sighed as it came near to the gate, thinking that the work had been a grievously long time in the doing, and being very weary of it; and that Amasis took this thing for an omen, and would not suffer them to draw it further. But others say that a certain man of those who were moving it with levers was killed at this place, and that for this cause it was not brought into the temple.



In the days of King Amasis the wealth of Egypt was greatly increased, for the river gave bountifully to the land, and the land gave bountifully to them that tilled it; and the cities of Egypt were twenty thousand in all. This King made a law for his people, that every man should come year by year to the governor of his province, and show by what means he got his living, and that he who did not so come and show that he lived honestly should be put to death. Solon took this for one of the laws which he gave to the Athenians, borrowing it from the Egyptians. And indeed it is a law which none can blame.

This Amasis was a great lover of the Greeks, giving the city of Naucratis to such as wished to dwell in the land; and to such as would not dwell in it, but traded in it, coming and going, he gave power to build temples and set up altars where they would. For in old times it had not been permitted to foreigners to trade in any place but Naucratis only. Also, when the temple of Delphi was burnt, and the Delphians sought help for the building of it, he gave them a thousand talents of silver. And he made a league and friendship with the city of Cyrene, and married also a woman of Cyrene, Ladice by name. And in many of the Greek cities he made offerings in the temples. This Amasis also subdued Cyprus and made it pay tribute, which none of the kings before him had done.