Welcome
   Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Authors
Works by Herodotus
Pages of Euterpe



Previous | Next
                  

Euterpe   


stolen away, he was sorely vexed. Wishing, therefore, whatever it
might cost, to catch the man who had contrived the trick, he had
recourse (the priests said) to an expedient, which I can scarcely
credit. He sent his own daughter to the common stews, with orders to
admit all comers, but to require every man to tell her what was the
cleverest and wickedest thing he had done in the whole course of his
life. If any one in reply told her the story of the thief, she was
to lay hold of him and not allow him to get away. The daughter did
as her father willed, whereon the thief, who was well aware of the
king's motive, felt a desire to outdo him in craft and cunning.
Accordingly he contrived the following plan:- He procured the corpse
of a man lately dead, and cutting of one of the arms at the
shoulder, put it under his dress, and so went to the king's
daughter. When she put the question to him as she had done to all
the rest, he replied that the wickedest thing he had ever done was
cutting off the head of his brother when he was caught in a trap in
the king's treasury, and the cleverest was making the guards drunk and
carrying off the body. As he spoke, the princess caught at him, but
the thief took advantage of the darkness to hold out to her the hand
of the corpse. Imagining it to be his own hand, she seized and held it
fast; while the thief, leaving it in her grasp, made his escape by the
door.
(6.) The king, when word was brought him of this fresh success,
amazed at the sagacity and boldness of the man, sent messengers to all
the towns in his dominions to proclaim a free pardon for the thief,
and to promise him a rich reward, if he came and made himself known.
The thief took the king at his word, and came boldly into his
presence; whereupon Rhampsinitus, greatly admiring him, and looking on
him as the most knowing of men, gave him his daughter in marriage.
"The Egyptians," he said, "excelled all the rest of the world in
wisdom, and this man excelled all other Egyptians."
The same king, I was also informed by the priests, afterwards
descended alive into the region which the Greeks call Hades, and there
played at dice with Ceres, sometimes winning and sometimes suffering
defeat. After a while he returned to earth, and brought with him a
golden napkin, a gift which he had received from the goddess. From
this descent of Rhampsinitus into Hades, and return to earth again,
the Egyptians, I was told, instituted a festival, which they certainly
celebrated in my day. On what occasion it was that they instituted it,
whether upon this or upon any other, I cannot determine. The following
are the ceremonies:- On a certain day in the year the priests weave
a mande, and binding the eyes of one of their number with a fillet,
they put the mantle upon him, and take him with them into the
roadway conducting to the temple of Ceres, when they depart and
leave him to himself. Then the priest, thus blindfolded, is led
(they say) by two wolves to the temple of Ceres, distant twenty
furlongs from the city, where he stays awhile, after which he is
brought back from the temple by the wolves, and left upon the spot
where they first joined him.
Such as think the tales told by the Egyptians credible are free to
accept them for history. For my own part, I propose to myself
throughout my whole work faithfully to record the traditions of the
several nations. The Egyptians maintain that Ceres and Bacchus preside
in the realms below. They were also the first to broach the opinion
that the soul of man is immortal and that, when the body dies, it
enters into the form of an animal which is born at the moment,
thence passing on from one animal into another, until it has circled
through the forms of all the creatures which tenant the earth, the
water, and the air, after which it enters again into a human frame,
and is born anew. The whole period of the transmigration is (they say)
three thousand years. There are Greek writers, some of an earlier,
some of a later date, who have borrowed this doctrine from the
Egyptians, and put it forward as their own. I could mention their
names, but I abstain from doing so.

Previous | Next
Site Search