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this case they always reconsider the matter under the influence of
When they meet each other in the streets, you may know if the
persons meeting are of equal rank by the following token: if they are,
instead of speaking, they kiss each other on the lips. In the case
where one is a little inferior to the other, the kiss is given on
the cheek; where the difference of rank is great, the inferior
prostrates himself upon the ground. Of nations, they honour most their
nearest neighbours, whom they esteem next to themselves; those who
live beyond these they honour in the second degree; and so with the
remainder, the further they are removed, the less the esteem in
which they hold them. The reason is that they look upon themselves
as very greatly superior in all respects to the rest of mankind,
regarding others as approaching to excellence in proportion as they
dwell nearer to them; whence it comes to pass that those who are the
farthest off must be the most degraded of mankind. Under the
dominion of the Medes, the several nations of the empire exercised
authority over each other in this order. The Medes were lords over
all, and governed the nations upon their borders, who in their turn
governed the States beyond, who likewise bore rule over the nations
which adjoined on them. And this is the order which the Persians
also follow in their distribution of honour; for that people, like
the Medes, has a progressive scale of administration and government.
There is no nation which so readily adopts foreign customs as
the Persians. Thus, they have taken the dress of the Medes,
considering it superior to their own; and in war they wear the
Egyptian breastplate. As soon as they hear of any luxury, they
instantly make it their own: and hence, among other novelties, they
have learnt unnatural lust from the Greeks. Each of them has several
wives, and a still larger number of concubines.
Next to prowess in arms, it is regarded as the greatest proof of
manly excellence to be the father of many sons. Every year the king
sends rich gifts to the man who can show the largest number: for
they hold that number is strength. Their sons are carefully instructed
from their fifth to their twentieth year, in three things alone,- to
ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the truth. Until their fifth
year they are not allowed to come into the sight of their father,
but pass their lives with the women. This is done that, if the child
die young, the father may not be afflicted by its loss.
To my mind it is a wise rule, as also is the following- that the
king shall not put any one to death for a single fault, and that
none of the Persians shall visit a single fault in a slave with any
extreme penalty; but in every case the services of the offender
shall be set against his misdoings; and, if the latter be found to
outweigh the former, the aggrieved party shall then proceed to
The Persians maintain that never yet did any one kill his own
father or mother; but in all such cases they are quite sure that, if
matters were sifted to the bottom, it would be found that the child
was either a changeling or else the fruit of adultery; for it is not
likely, they say, that the real father should perish by the hands of
his child.
They hold it unlawful to talk of anything which it is unlawful
to do. The most disgraceful thing in the world, they think, is to
tell a lie; the next worst, to owe a debt: because, among other
reasons, the debtor is obliged to tell lies. If a Persian has the
leprosy he is not allowed to enter into a city, or to have any
dealings with the other Persians; he must, they say, have sinned
against the sun. Foreigners attacked by this disorder, are forced to
leave the country: even white pigeons are often driven away, as
guilty of the same offence. They never defile a river with the
secretions of their bodies, nor even wash their hands in one; nor
will they allow others to do so, as they have a great reverence for
rivers. There is another peculiarity, which the Persians themselves

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