4 months ago

The Old and the Restless - The Egyptians and the Scythians in Herodotus' Histories by Robert J. Hagan

13 eventually takes

13 eventually takes Memphis and the Kingdom of Egypt. We will later discuss this idea and how it reflects the national character of Egypt.

14 3. Time and Origins The two civilizations at the extreme poles of the ancient world were one of the newest and the oldest, as explained by Herodotus. The Scythians and Herodotus agree that their people are "the youngest in the world" (4.05), and while their tribal history is difficult to track, it is probable that they had only entered Herodotus’ world by the 8th century. 6 The Egyptians on the other hand go to substantial lengths to establish their supreme oldness, as Herodotus tells in the anecdote about the shepherd and the two children (2.02). In an effort to find out if the Egyptians or the Phrygians are the oldest peoples on earth, the pharaoh Psammetichus orders that two infants be put in an isolated hut, cared for by a shepherd who provides them with milk from shegoats, but otherwise shut off from human language. When one of the infants’ first word turns out to be “bekos,” the Phrygian word for “bread,” he concludes that the Phrygians are the oldest race in the world (ignoring how close “bekos” sounds to the bleat of a goat!). So, Psammetichus settles for the Egyptians being the second oldest. The Scythians and the Egyptians are cultures of two different generations, the former emerging into history only in the iron age, and the latter’s history stretching far back into the bronze age; they are separated in development by thousands of years. This dichotomy underlies much of Herodotus' text and is present in all aspects of their civilizations from laws, culture, and geology to the general uses of storytelling. 6 Szemerényi, O. “Four Old Iranian Ethnic Names,” 5.