43 Their adaptability initiates the beginning of a new identity. They are internationalist and are sophisticated in that way, but not like theEgyptians, whose sophistication comes with centuries of learning. Pasargadae, the first capital of the Persians, had no pyramids or great temples, but under the reign of Darius I, the Persians did have Persepolis, a new city notable for its grand palatial structures and ornate gateways. As a symbol of their new power, it was formidable, but as a cultural center it could not compare to the great cities of Egypt. Their international, luxurious character overshadows the culture of men who from ages five till twenty “study only three things: horsemanship, archery, and honesty” (1.136). They even go so far as to import the myths of the Greeks. Rather than claiming to have had integral part in shaping the pantheon of gods as theEgyptians do (2.04), or being subject to Greek projection of their myths like theScythians (4.8-10), the Persians assert their own interpretation on the Greek mythological program. TheHistories opens with the Persian perspective on the ultimate Greek saga, the Trojan War, andthey even adopt Greek myths in order to claim that it was the Phoenicians who began the series of abductions leading to the events of the Iliad (1.01-05). It is no surprise that the Achaemenids, who throughout theHistories attempt to impose their rule over Europe, would not stop at military hegemony, but go on to cultural hegemony as well. Moreover, this importation suggests a lack of heroic traditions of their own 28 . The beginning of many betrayals of the Persians’ most cherished aversion to lying begins with the acceptance of foreign influence by those they have conquered. The Persians are first exposed to lying intheHistories while Cyrus is on campaign against the Massagetae (1.204-14). When given the choice of fighting in Massagetan territory andtheir own, the Persians 28 Munson, R., “Who are Herodotus’ Persians?”, 467, see n.46.
44 unanimously agree to wage battle intheir own land. Croesus, however, interjects with a plan that their army will leave a great feast with undiluted wine, and when the enemy are drunk and full, they will slaughter them (1.207). The successful fulfillment of this plot marks a point of divergence for the Persians from a people who byinstinct opt for a straight fight rather than use trickery, as they do here initially. The fact that this idea comes from Croesus demonstrates the compromising of Persian values that comes with exposure to other cultures, namely the Lydians, who intheir great oldness are well-acquainted with such stratagems. The subsequent destruction of the Persian army at the hands of the Massagetae, a people similar to the ancient Persians pre- Cyrus intheir simple ways, is perhaps as much a consequence of their willingness to adopt new ways as it is a result of Cyrus’ hubris.