11 months ago

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

65 choose to keep his

65 choose to keep his sycophantic courtiers and relatives rather than the Phoenicians, the expert sailors who could actually direct the ship. As Dewald puts it, “He has in effect seated overdressed and out-of-shape courtiers at the oars of his ship of state.” 37 37 Dewald, C. (ed.) The Histories by Herodotus, 718.

66 11. Conclusions Herodotus ends the Histories by bringing us back to a moment early in Cyrus’ reign, after he has just obtained the crown of the Median Empire. A man named Artembares, the ancestor of an aforementioned Artayctes, the corrupt Persian noble in the time of Xerxes, approaches Cyrus along with some other Persians and tells him that since they have become masters of many men, that they should move to conquer a more prosperous country and live there. Cyrus dismisses the proposal, telling those Persians that they might go if they wish, but that they should be prepared to eventually become slaves, “on the grounds that soft lands tend to breed soft men.” They are convinced, and with that they decide to stay in the rough land of Persia (9.122). Of course, in the long term, this is not how the story turns out. The Persians do not stay in Persia, but rather they spread themselves over much of Asia, living amongst the population, adopting their customs and enjoying their luxuries. With the Cyrus anecdote, Herodotus reminds us that the Persians were once a hardy, rugged people, led by a king of the same virtues. It is affecting in its conveyance of a sense of the “good old days,” for this was a time when the Persians were upwardly mobile, with much still to conquer and their nomoi intact. Cyrus’ appearance at the end of Book Nine reminds us how much the Persians have changed since his account began in Book One. For, as we have seen, the Persians are a changing people with changing customs and values. The earlier Persians, who thought it their highest virtue to never lie and who revere the natural elements are not the same as those who venture to Greece in 480 BC. Herodotus sets the Persians on a trajectory throughout the Histories, tracking these changes. It is this trajectory that