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Works by Herodotus
Pages of Euterpe

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river from the lake. it runs outward it returns a talent of silver
daily to the royal treasury from the fish that are taken, but when the
current is the other way the return sinks to one-third of that sum.
The natives told me that there was a subterranean passage from
this lake to the Libyan Syrtis, running westward into the interior
by the hills above Memphis. As I could not anywhere see the earth
which had been taken out when the excavation was made, and I was
curious to know what had become of it, I asked the Egyptians who
live closest to the lake where the earth had been put. The answer that
they gave me I readily accepted as true, since I had heard of the same
thing being done at Nineveh of the Assyrians. There, once upon a time,
certain thieves, having formed a plan to get into their possession the
vast treasures of Sardanapalus, the Ninevite king, which were laid
up in subterranean treasuries, proceeded to tunnel a passage from
the house where they lived into the royal palace, calculating the
distance and the direction. At nightfall they took the earth from
the excavation and carried it to the river Tigris, which ran by
Nineveh, continuing to get rid of it in this manner until they had
accomplished their purpose. It was exactly in the same way that the
Egyptians disposed of the mould from their excavation, except that
they did it by day and not by night; for as fast as the earth was dug,
they carried it to the Nile, which they knew would disperse it far and
wide. Such was the account which I received of the formation of this
The twelve kings for some time dealt honourably by one another,
but at length it happened that on a certain occasion, when they had
met to worship in the temple of Vulcan, the high-priest on the last
day of the festival, in bringing forth the golden goblets from which
they were wont to pour the libations, mistook the number and brought
eleven goblets only for the twelve princes. Psammetichus was
standing last, and, being left without a cup, he took his helmet,
which was of bronze, from off his head, stretched it out to receive
the liquor, and so made his libation. All the kings were accustomed to
wear helmets, and all indeed wore them at this very time. Nor was
there any crafty design in the action of Psammetichus. The eleven,
however, when they came to consider what had been done, and
bethought them of the oracle which had declared "that he who, of the
twelve, should pour a libation from a cup of bronze, the same would be
king of the whole land of Egypt," doubted at first if they should
not put Psammetichus to death. Finding, however, upon examination,
that he had acted in the matter without any guilty intent, they did
not think it would be just to kill him; but determined, instead, to
strip him of the chief part of his power and to banish him to the
marshes, forbidding him to leave them or to hold any communication
with the rest of Egypt.
This was the second time that Psammetichus had been driven into
banishment. On a former occasion he had fled from Sabacos the
Ethiopian, who had put his father Necos to death; and had taken refuge
in Syria from whence, after the retirement of the Ethiop in
consequence of his dream, he was brought back by the Egyptians of
the Saitic canton. Now it was his ill-fortune to be banished a
second time by the eleven kings, on account of the libation which he
had poured from his helmet; on this occasion he fled to the marshes.
Feeling that he was an injured man, and designing to avenge himself
upon his persecutors, Psammetichus sent to the city of Buto, where
there is an oracle of Latona, the most veracious of all the oracles of
the Egyptians, and having inquired concerning means of vengeance,
received for answer that "Vengeance would come from the sea, when
brazen men should appear." Great was his incredulity when this
answer arrived, for never, he thought, would brazen men arrive to be
his helpers. However, not long afterwards certain Carians and
Ionians who had left their country on a voyage of plunder, were
carried by stress of weather to Egypt where they disembarked, all
equipped in their brazen armour, and were seen by the natives, one

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