Ancient History & Civilisation



[1] After the capture of Babylon, the next military expedition commanded by Darius in person was against the Scythians. Asia’s human resources were now flourishing, revenue was pouring in, and Darius was eager to pay the Scythians back, because they had been the first to commit unprovoked aggression, by invading Media and conquering those who opposed them in battle. As I have described earlier, the Scythians ruled over inland Asia for twenty-eight years. They invaded Asia on the heels of the Cimmerians, who were fleeing before them, and caused the end of the Median empire (the Medes had been the rulers of Asia before the coming of the Scythians). But after twenty-eight years away from their homeland, the Scythians returned—only to be greeted, after so long away, by just as much trouble as the Medes had caused them, because they found a sizeable army opposing them. What had happened was that the long absence of their husbands had induced the Scythian women to resort to their slaves.

[2] The Scythians blind all their slaves, and this is connected with the milk that they drink. The way they get their milk is as follows. They have blow-pipes made out of bones (they look very like our reed-pipes), and while one person inserts one of these pipes into the vagina of a mare and blows into it, someone else is doing the milking. They say that the effect of this is that the mare’s veins are pumped up and the udder descends. Once the milk has been extracted, it is poured into deep wooden vessels and then they station their blind slaves around the vessels and have them stir the milk. The milk separates into an upper layer (which is skimmed off and regarded as the best bit) and a lower layer (which is thought to be less good), and that is why the Scythians blind everyone they capture. For they are nomads, not farmers.

[3] So a whole new generation had grown up with these slaves and the Scythian women as their parents, and when they discovered the circumstances of their birth, they set about resisting the return of the Scythians from Media. The first thing they did was isolate their country, by digging a wide trench all the way from the Taurian mountains to the widest part of Lake Maeetis, and then they took up defensive positions and resisted the attempted invasion of the returning Scythians. Several engagements took place, but military tactics were getting the Scythians nowhere, so one of their number came up with an alternative. ‘Fellow Scythians,’ he said, ‘look at what we’re doing. In this war against our own slaves, we can either kill or be killed; if we’re killed, there’ll be fewer of us, and if we kill them, there’ll be fewer of them for us to command. So I think we should abandon our spears and bows, take up our horsewhips instead, and pitch into them. All this time they’ve been seeing us bearing arms against them, as though they were our equals and sons of men as good as us. But the sight of us bearing whips instead of weapons will teach them that they are our slaves, and when they’ve learnt this they won’t resist us.’

[4] The Scythians put this plan into action. Their opponents were so confused by the turn of events that they forgot about fighting and fled. That is how the Scythians ruled over Asia and, driven out of there by the Medes, returned home. And so it was a desire to pay them back that led Darius to raise an army against them.

[5] According to the Scythians, theirs is the most recent race on earth, and their account of their origins is as follows. The first man to be born in their country, which had previously been uninhabited, was someone called Targitaus, whose parents, according to the Scythians—this is what they say, but I myself do not believe it—were Zeus and a daughter of the Borysthenes River. This is supposed to be Targitaus’ lineage, and then he had three sons—Lipoxaïs, Arpoxaïs, and Colaxaïs, who was the youngest. During their reign there fell from the sky on to Scythia four golden implements: a plough, a yoke, a sagaris, and a cup. The first one to see them was the eldest son, and he ran up to take possession of them, but at his approach the gold caught fire. He retreated, and the second son approached, but exactly the same thing happened to him—the burning gold drove him back as well. At the approach of the youngest son, however, the fire died down, and he took the golden implements back to his own home. The two older brothers therefore yielded to the youngest brother and handed the whole kingdom over to him.

[6] The Scythian tribe called the Auchatae trace their lineage back to Lipoxaïs, while the Catiari and Traspians trace their lineage back to the middle brother Arpoxaïs, and the kings of Scythia, who are called the Paralatae, are descended from the youngest brother. Their own name for themselves collectively is the Scoloti;† it is the Greeks who called them Scythians. Anyway, that is the Scythian account of their origins.

[7] As for the age of their race, they say that altogether, from the time of their first king Targitaus until the invasion of Darius, roughly a thousand years passed, but no more. It is one of the kings’ most important jobs to look after the sacred gold I have mentioned, and there is an annual festival of propitiation at which they placate it with great sacrifices. The Scythians say that anyone who has the sacred gold and falls asleep out in the open during the festival will die within a year, and that is why they give him as much land as he can ride around on horseback in a day. Since the country is so large, they say, Colaxaïs established three kingdoms within it—one for each of his sons—and he made the largest the one in which the gold was to be kept. Beyond the territory of their neighbours to the north there are such piles of feathers, according to the Scythians, that nothing can be seen and the land cannot be traversed either. They say that there are too many feathers filling the land and the air to enable sight to function.

[8] That is what the Scythians say about themselves and about the land to the north, but according to the Greeks who live on the Euxine Sea it was Heracles who first came to the country currently occupied by the Scythians, when it was still uninhabited. He was driving the cattle of Geryon, who lived, they say, beyond the Euxine Sea, on the island known to the Greeks as Erytheia, which is near Gadira—Gadira being beyond the Pillars of Heracles on the shore of the Ocean. (The Ocean is supposed to rise in the east and flow all the way around the world, but there is in fact no evidence for its existence.) The story continues that when Heracles left Geryon and came to the country now known as Scythia, he encountered storms and frost, so when he lay down to sleep he covered himself with his lion skin. While he was asleep, his horses, which had been grazing yoked to his chariot, were miraculously spirited away.

[9] When Heracles woke up, he travelled all over the country looking for his horses, and eventually came to a place called Hylaea, where he found in a cave a being who was half young woman and half viper; from the buttocks upwards she was a woman, but her lower half was serpentine. He looked at her in astonishment and asked her whether she had seen some horses roaming around anywhere. In reply, she said that she had them and would not give them back to him until he had had sex with her. Heracles had sex with her on these terms. Now, she kept postponing the return of the horses, because she wanted Heracles to stay with her for as long as possible, although he wanted to get his horses and go. But she did finally give them back to him, saying, ‘When these horses of yours came here I kept them safe for you, and you have rewarded me by giving me three sons. Tell me what to do with them when they grow up. I have power over the whole of this country, so I can find somewhere for them to live here, if you want, or I can send them to you.’

Heracles’ reply to this question of hers (so the story goes) was to say, ‘Here’s what you should do. When the boys have obviously become men, find out whether any of them can draw this bow here and put on this belt as I do now. If any of them can perform these tasks, you should set them up here in this country, but you should banish any of them who fail. This will not only make you happy, but will also be a way of carrying out my wishes.’

[10] He drew one of his bows—he had previously always carried two—and showed her the belt (which had a golden cup hanging from its tip, where it fastened together), and gave her both the bow and the belt. Then he left. When her offspring had grown up, she called the eldest boy Agathyrsus, the next one Gelonus, and the youngest Scythes. Then, mindful of her duty, she carried out the instructions Heracles had given her. Now, two of her sons, Agathyrsus and Gelonus, failed to accomplish the assigned task and their mother ordered them out of the country; Scythes, however, the youngest son, was successful and stayed there. And so, on this account, every successive Scythian king is descended from Scythes the son of Heracles. Also, Scythians still carry cups on their belts even today, because of Heracles’ bowl. His mother found a way for Scythes to be the only one to succeed.† That is what the Greeks who live on the Euxine Sea say.

[11] There is still another version of events, which I personally prefer. It claims that the Scythians were a nomadic tribe living in Asia, and that once, by force of arms, they were driven by the Massagetae across the River Araxes and into Cimmerian land—that is, the land currently occupied by Scythians, which is said to have belonged originally to the Cimmerians. In view of this Scythian invasion, and especially given that the invading force was so large, the Cimmerians tried to decide what to do. There were two distinct schools of thought, and although they were both vigorously championed, the one proposed by the royal family was better. The opinion of the general populace was that the best course would be for them to leave and not run the risk of staying for the sake of what was no more than dust,† whereas the royal family put forward the view that they should fight the invaders for the land. Neither side was prepared to do what the other side was suggesting. The general populace were in favour of abandoning their country without a struggle and handing it over to the invaders; the royal family, on the other hand, bore in mind what a good life they had had and how much they were likely to suffer if they fled from their homeland, and so decided not to join the people in flight, but to die and be buried in their native soil. Having made this decision, they formed themselves into separate groups, each containing an equal number of men, and fought one another. Then the Cimmerian people of the general populace buried them by the River Tyras (where their grave can still be seen) and emigrated, so that the Scythians invaded and took possession of an empty land.

[12] Even today one can find in Scythia places called Cimmerian Walls or the Cimmerian Straits, and there is also a tract of land known as Cimmeria and a part of the Bosporus that is called Cimmerian. It seems clear that the Cimmerians fled into Asia to escape the Scythians and settled in the peninsula where the Greek town of Sinope is established nowadays. And it is also clear that it was because they took the wrong route that the Scythians entered Median territory during their pursuit of the Cimmerians. For the Cimmerians fled along the coast, whereas the pursuing Scythians kept the Caucasian mountains to their right until they entered Median territory, by turning inland. This, then, is the third version, which is told by Greeks and non-Greeks alike.

[13] Aristeas the son of Caystrobus, who came from Proconnesus, claimed in a poem that he visited the Issedones in a state of inspiration by Apollo, that beyond the Issedones lives a one-eyed race called the Arimaspians, beyond them there is the land of the gold-guarding griffins, and beyond them the Hyperboreans, all the way to the sea. All these people, from the Arimaspians on, except the Hyperboreans, are constantly attacking their neighbours, according to Aristeas, so that the Issedones were driven out of their territory by the Arimaspians, the Scythians were expelled by the Issedones, and the Cimmerians living on the southern sea were forced to leave their country by the Scythians. So he does not agree with the Scythians either concerning the country in question.

[14] I have already said where Aristeas, the author of this account, came from, but now I will recount a story I was told about him on Proconnesus and in Cyzicus. The story goes that Aristeas, who was as high born as anyone on Proconnesus, died in a fuller’s shop he was visiting on the island. The fuller locked up his workshop and went to tell the dead man’s relatives what had happened. Word soon spread around the town that Aristeas had died, but then a Cyzican man arrived from the town of Artaca with a contradictory report; he said that he had met Aristeas on the road to Cyzicus, and had had a conversation with him. He was very insistent that he was right and the others were wrong. The dead man’s family went to the fuller’s workshop with the things they needed to collect the body, but when they opened the door, there was no sign of Aristeas, dead or alive! Seven years later, he reappeared on Proconnesus, composed the poem which is nowadays known in Greece as On the Arimaspians, and then vanished a second time.

[15] That is what they say in Proconnesus and Cyzicus. However, I also know of an event that took place in Metapontum in Italy two hundred and forty years after the second disappearance of Aristeas, according to the calculations I made in Proconnesus and Cyzicus. The people of Metapontum say that Aristeas appeared in their country and told them to construct an altar to Apollo and to erect alongside it a statue of Aristeas of Proconnesus inscribed with his name. He told them that Apollo had once singled Metapontum out as the only place in Italy he had visited, and that he had been with Apollo at the time of his visit, although he had been a crow in those days, whereas now he was Aristeas. After telling them this, he disappeared. The Metapontines say that they then sent emissaries to Delphi to ask the god what this apparition was, and the Pythia told them to obey the phantom, and that it would be better for them to do so. They accepted the validity of the oracle and did what they had been told to do. A statue inscribed with the name of Aristeas can still be found even today; it stands in the main square of the town right next to the statue of Apollo, and is surrounded by laurel-trees. Anyway, that is enough about Aristeas.

[16] No one knows for sure what lies further inland from the region this account has set out to describe. I cannot get information from anyone who claims to have firsthand knowledge. Not even Aristeas (the subject of my recent discussion) claimed in his poem to have actually travelled further than the Issedones; he said that his information about more remote parts came from the Issedones—in other words, that it was based on hearsay. However, I will put down all the reliable information I have been able to gain as a result of my enquiries.

[17] Taking as a starting-point the trading-centre of the Borysthenites, which is right in the middle of the coastline of Scythia, the first tribe is the Callippidae, who are Greek Scythians, and then beyond them there is another tribe called the Alizones. The customs of both these tribes are basically Scythian, except that they cultivate and eat grain, onions, garlic, lentils, and millet. Beyond the Alizones there live Scythian tribes who farm the land, but the crops they cultivate are for them to sell, rather than for their own consumption. Further north live the Neurians, but then the country north of the Neurians is uninhabited, as far as anyone knows. These are the tribes along the River Hypanis to the west of the Borysthenes.

[18] If one crosses the Borysthenes, the first region inland from the coast is Hylaea, and then, if one goes on up north, there are tribes of farming Scythians, called Borysthenites by the Olbiopolites (as the Greeks who live on the River Hypanis refer to themselves). These farming Scythians inhabit a region which extends for three days’ journey east, up to a river called the Panticapes, and to the north for eleven days’ sailing up the Borysthenes. North of this agricultural region there is a vast uninhabited area, and then there are the Cannibals, who have their own distinct way of life and are not Scythian at all. Further north the land is by this stage genuinely uninhabited; not a single human race lives there, as far as anyone knows.

[19] To the east of these agricultural Scythian tribes, across the Panticapes River, live nomadic Scythian tribes who do not grow crops or cultivate the land; moreover, the whole of this part of the world, except for Hylaea, is entirely bare of trees. The territory inhabited by these nomadic tribes extends east for fourteen days’ journey, up to the River Gerrhus.

[20] Across the Gerrhus is the Kingdom, as it is called, which is inhabited by the largest and most advanced Scythian tribe, who regard all other Scythians as their slaves. Their territory extends south as far as Taurian territory, east up to the trench which was dug by the sons of the blind men and the trading-centre on Lake Maeetis which is called Cremni, and also reaches the River Tanaïs. North of these Royal Scythians lives another non-Scythian tribe called the Black Cloaks, and north of them there are lakes but no human beings, as far as anyone knows.

[21] Across the Tanaïs River one is no longer in Scythian territory. The first tract of land one comes to on the other side of the river is inhabited by the Sauromatae, whose territory extends from the head of Lake Maeetis northward for fifteen days’ journey and is entirely bare of both wild and cultivated trees. Beyond them, in the second tract of land, live the Budinians, whose territory is entirely covered with trees and shrubs of every conceivable species.

[22] North of the Budinians there is first a seven-day stretch of empty land, and then, if one turns a little eastward, there are the Thyssagetae, a populous tribe with its own distinct way of life. They live off what they can catch by hunting. Next to them, in this same region, live people called the Iyrcae, who also survive by hunting. Their method of hunting is to climb a tree (there are plenty of trees there) and lie in wait. Each hunter’s horse has been trained to lie low with its belly on the ground in a state of readiness, and the same goes for his dog as well. When the hunter spots his quarry from the tree, he shoots at it and then leaps on to the horse and chases it, with the dog close behind. Beyond the Iyrcae, if one turns to the east, there are more Scythians, who once split off from the Royal Scythians and moved to this region.

[23] Up to the land of these Scythians, the terrain of the countries mentioned is uniformly even and has a deep layer of soil, but then it becomes rocky and rugged. Far past this rugged region, in the foothills of a mountain range, live people who are said—men and women alike—to be bald from birth; they are also supposed to have snub noses and large chins, to have a distinct language, to dress like Scythians, and to live off trees. The tree is called pontikos, and is about the same size as a fig-tree; its fruit looks like a bean, but has a pit inside. When the fruit is ripe, they strain itthrough cloths and extract a thick, dark juice from it, which they call askhu. They lick this juice and drink it mixed with milk, and compress the thickest sediment into cakes for eating. They do not have much livestock, because the grazing there is poor. They each live under a tree, and wrap white waterproof felt around their trees in winter, while dispensing with the felt in summer. They are said to be holy, and so no one acts unjustly towards them, and they do not have any weapons of war. When disputes arise between neighbouring tribes, they are the ones who settle them, and any fugitive who takes refuge among them is safe from unjust treatment. They are called the Argippaei.

[24] Now, there is a great deal of good information available about the land and all the tribes up to and including these bald people, because Scythians sometimes reach these parts, as do Greeks from the trading-centre Borysthenes and from other trading-centres on the Euxine Sea, and it is not hard to get information from them. The Scythians who travel to these tribes conduct their business in seven languages, each requiring its own translator.

[25] So accurate information is available up to the bald people, but no one knows enough about what lies to the north of them to speak with confidence, because the mountains are so tall that they form an insurmountable barrier; no one passes over them to the other side. However, the bald people give what I consider to be an untrustworthy report, that there are goat-footed men living in the mountains, and that on the other side of the mountains there are other people, who spend six months of the year asleep. I cannot accept this at all. It is known for certain that the land to the east of the bald tribe is inhabited by the Issedones, but our only source of information about what lies to the north of the bald people or the Issedones is their own reports.

[26] Issedonian customs are said to be as follows. When a man’s father dies, all his relatives bring livestock to his house. They sacrifice the animals and chop the meat up into pieces—and then they also chop up their host’s dead father, mix all the meats together, and serve them up as a special meal. What they do to the head, though, is pluck all the hair off, clean it out, and then gild it. Then they treat it as if it were a cult statue, in the sense that the dead man’s son offers it magnificent sacrifices once a year, just as in Greece sons commemorate the anniversary of their father’s death. In other respects, however, the Issedones too are said to be a moral people, and women have as much power as men in their society.

[27] Anyway, we know about the Issedones too, but for information about what lies to the north of them, we have to rely on their say-so. So it is thanks to the Issedones that we hear of the race of one-eyed men living there, and also about the gold-guarding griffins. When the Scythians talk about these one-eyed men and the griffins they are only repeating what they heard from the Issedones, and then the rest of us believe it and call them, Scythian-style, Arimaspians, because the Scythian words for ‘one’ and ‘eye’ are arima and spou.

[28] All the land I have mentioned experiences very severe winters—so much so that for eight months of the year it is gripped by intolerable frost. During these months you cannot make mud by pouring water on the ground, but only by lighting a fire.† The sea near the coast freezes over, as does the whole of the Cimmerian Bosporus, and the ice can bear the weight of the Scythians living inside the boundary of the trench, who go on military campaigns driving their wagons across it as far as Sindica. So a winter of this severity lasts for eight months, and for the remaining four months it is still cold there. Winter in this part of the world is also different in kind from winters anywhere else in the world, in that it hardly rains at all, as one would expect in this season, but in summer it never stops raining. At the time when thunderstorms occur elsewhere in the world, they do not happen there, but they are frequent during the summer. If a thunderstorm ever occurs in winter, it is regarded as a marvellous omen. The same goes for any earthquakes that might occur as well, at any time of the year: they are regarded in Scythia as omens. Horses can bear winter here, but mules and donkeys cannot do so at all, whereas elsewhere horses develop frostbite if they stand on frozen ground, while donkeys and mules can put up with it.

[29] It seems to me that this is also why the cattle there do not grow horns. This opinion of mine is supported by the line of Homer’s in the Odyssey which goes: ‘And Libya, where sheep bear horns soon after birth.’ This is true, because horns grow quickly in hot places, whereas in a bitterly cold climate animals either do not grow horns at all or grow only little stumps.

[30] Anyway, that is what happens as a result of the cold. But there is one thing that puzzles me (this may be a digression, but then this account has sought out such digressions ever since its beginning): what stops mules being born anywhere in Elis, which is not a cold place? There is no other obvious reason for it. According to native Elean tradition, it is a curse that stops mules being born there. However, when their mares are in season, they take them over the border and let the donkeys mount them there, in their neighbours’ territory; and when the mares have conceived, they lead them back to Elis.

[31] What about the feathers with which, according to the Scythians, the air is filled, and which stop them either seeing or travelling over more of the continent? My view is that it is constantly snowing north of the region in question (less in summer than in winter, of course), and that it is the harshness of the winter that makes the northern part of the continent uninhabitable. Now, snow does look like feathers, as anyone who has ever seen snow falling thickly from close up can confirm; so I think that the Scythians and their neighbours are describing the snow metaphorically as feathers. Anyway, so much for what is said about these very remote parts.

[32] None of the tribes living there, including the Scythians, have anything to say about the Hyperboreans. Perhaps the Issedones do, but I do not think so, because if they did the Scythians would have stories about them too, just as they do about the one-eyed people. Hesiod, however, has mentioned the Hyperboreans, and so has Homer in the Epigoni (if indeed Homer really is the author of this poem).

[33] The overwhelming majority of the stories about the Hyperboreans come from Delos. The Delians say that sacred objects are tied up inside a bundle of wheat straw and are transported from the Hyperboreans first to Scythia, then westward as far as possible—that is, to the Adriatic—through a chain of successive neighbouring tribes, then south to Dodona (which is the first Greek community to receive them), then to the Gulf of Malia, where they cross over to Euboea, where they are passed from town to town until they reach Carystus, at which stage Andros is omitted, because the Carystians are the ones taking them to Tenos, and from Tenos the objects are conveyed to Delos. So this is how these sacred objects are said to reach Delos. They also say that the first time this happened, the Hyperboreans sent two young women (whose names, according to the Delians, were Hyperoche and Laodice) to carry the sacred objects, together with five men from their country to act as their escorts and protect them; these are the men who are nowadays known as Perphereis and are greatly revered in Delos. But when these emissaries of theirs failed to return home, the Hyperboreans became upset at the prospect of everyone they ever sent on a mission failing to come back, and so they began to take the sacred objects tied up in a bundle of wheat straw to their border and entrust them to their neighbours, with orders to pass them on to the next tribe. So that is the route by which these sacred objects are said to get to Delos. I myself know of another instance of the same kind of thing happening as happens in the case of these sacred objects: when Thracian and Paeonian women sacrifice to Queen Artemis, the rites involve the use of wheat straw.

[34] So much for what these women do, to my certain knowledge. Now, the death of the young women who came from the Hyperboreans is commemorated on Delos by a hair-cutting ritual performed by the girls and boys of the island. Before they get married, the girls cut off a lock of hair, wind it around a spindle and put it on the tomb (which is inside the sanctuary of Artemis, on the left as one enters, and an olive-tree has grown over it), and the Delian boys wind some of their hair around a twig and put it on the tomb as well. So that is how these Hyperborean women are worshipped by the inhabitants of Delos.

[35] The Delians also say that two other young Hyperborean women, called Arge and Opis, came to Delos by the same route even before Hyperoche and Laodice. The purpose of their visit was to bring Eileithyia tribute they had undertaken to pay in exchange for a quick and easy labour at childbirth. According to the Delians, Arge and Opis were accompanied by the gods themselves to the island, where they have received different honours. What happens is that the women of the island beg gifts for them, while calling on them by name in the words of the hymn that Olen of Lycia composed in honour of Arge and Opis. (The practice of singing the praises of Opis and Arge, naming them and begging gifts for them, has spread from Delos to the rest of the Aegean islands and to Ionia. This man Olen also composed all the other traditional hymns which are sung on Delos, when he came to the island from Lycia.) Also, when thigh-bones are burnt as a sacrifice on the altar, the ashes are scattered on the tomb of Opis and Arge until there are none left. This tomb of theirs is situated behind the grounds of the sanctuary of Artemis, facing east, right next to the banqueting-hall of the Ceans.

[36] That is enough about the Hyperboreans. I am not going to repeat the story about Abaris, who was supposed to be a Hyperborean, and how he carried an arrow all the way around the world without eating anything. But if there are Hyperboreans, people living beyond the north wind, there should also be Hypernotians, people living beyond the south wind.

I am amused when I see that not one of all the people who have drawn maps of the world has set it out sensibly. They show Ocean as a river flowing around the outside of the earth, which is as circular as if it had been drawn with a pair of compasses, and they make Asia and Europe the same size. I shall now briefly explain how big each of these continents is and what each of them should look like on the map.

[37] Persians live all the way south as far as the sea which is called the Red Sea. Their northern neighbours are the Medes, then come the Saspeires, and then the Colchians, all the way to the northern sea, into which the River Phasis flows. The whole of the land from one sea to the other is occupied by these four peoples.

[38] West of this tract of land come two peninsulas which project out from it into the sea. Here is a description of these two peninsulas. One of them starts in the north at the River Phasis, runs past the Euxine Sea and the Hellespont, and reaches the sea at Sigeum in Troas; in the south, this same peninsula starts at the Myriandic Gulf, which is off Phoenicia, and reaches the sea at the Cape of Triopium. This peninsula is inhabited by thirty different peoples.

[39] So that is one of the two peninsulas, and the other one starts in Persia and goes down to the Red Sea, taking in Persia, then Assyria, and then Arabia. This peninsula ends, but only by convention, at the Arabian Gulf, into which the canal flows which Darius dug from the Nile. From Persia to Phoenicia the land is broad and wide, but after Phoenicia this peninsula breaks into our sea and reaches Egypt (where it ends) via Palestinian Syria. This peninsula is home to only three peoples.

[40] These are the parts of Asia that extend west from Persia, and beyond the Persians, Medes, Saspeires, and Colchians, to the east there lies the Red Sea, and to the north the Caspian Sea and the eastward-flowing River Araxes. Asia is inhabited as far as India, but east of India it is empty, and no one can describe what the land is like.

[41] That is the nature and extent of Asia. Now, Libya is part of the second peninsula, because it extends from Egypt. At Egypt, this peninsula is narrow, since the distance between our sea and the Red Sea is 100,000 fathoms, or a thousand stades; after this narrow bit, however, the peninsula, which now constitutes Libya, is in fact extremely wide.

[42] I am surprised, therefore, at the ways in which Libya, Asia, and Europe have been demarcated and distinguished. The differences between them are not insignificant. Europe extends lengthwise the same distance as both of the other continents together, and there is no comparison between their widths, in my opinion. After all, Libya is demonstrably surrounded by water, except for the bit of it that forms the boundary with Asia. King Necho of Egypt was the first to discover this, as far as we know; after he abandoned the digging of the canal from the Nile to the Arabian Gulf, his next project was to dispatch ships with Phoenician crews with instructions to return via the Pillars of Heracles into the northern sea† and so back to Egypt. So the Phoenicians set out from the Red Sea and sailed into the sea to the south. Every autumn, they would come ashore, cultivate whatever bit of Libya they had reached in their voyage, and wait for harvest-time; then, when they had gathered in their crops, they would put to sea again. Consequently it was over two years before they rounded the Pillars of Heracles and arrived back in Egypt. They made a claim which I personally do not believe, although someone else might—that as they were sailing around Libya they had the sun on their right.

[43] This was how information about Libya was first gained, and then the next people to claim that the continent was circumnavigable were the Carthaginians. I say that the Carthaginians were next, because the Achaemenid Sataspes the son of Teäspis failed to sail around Libya, even though that was his mission; frightened by the length and loneliness of the voyage he turned back, and so failed to carry out the task his mother had set him. The story is that he had raped the unmarried daughter of Zopyrus the son of Megabyzus. King Xerxes ordered him to be impaled for this crime, and the sentence was due to be carried out, when his mother, who was Darius’ sister, begged for his life to be spared and promised to impose a heavier penalty on him than Xerxes had. She said that she would make him sail all the way round Libya until his route brought him back into the Arabian Gulf. Xerxes agreed to spare him on these terms, so Sataspes went to Egypt, procured a boat and crew there, and set sail for the Pillars of Heracles. He passed through them, rounded the extremity of Libya, which is called Cape Soloeis, and sailed south. Some months and a great deal of sailing later, when there was no sign of any end to the voyage, he turned around and sailed back to Egypt, and then made his way to King Xerxes. In his report to Xerxes, he said that at the most southerly point they reached they had been sailing past a country inhabited by small people who wore clothes made out of palm leaves, and that whenever they had beached their ship, these people had abandoned their settlements and run away towards the hills, despite the fact that they had not approached them aggressively, and had taken only some livestock from them. The reason he gave for not sailing all the way around Libya was that his ship could go no further, but had been stopped. Xerxes, however, realized that he was lying. So, because he had failed to carry out his mission, he had him impaled on the original charge. One of Sataspes’ eunuchs ran away to Samos, as soon as he found out that his master was dead, with a great deal of property, but a Samian man seized it all. I know the name of the Samian, but I deliberately repress it.

[44] Most of Asia was discovered by Darius as a result of his desire to find out where the Indus River (the only other river in the world to have crocodiles living in it) meets the sea. On board the ships he sent out were people he trusted to bring back an accurate report, including Scylax, a man from Caryanda. They set out from the city of Caspatyrus, in Pactyican territory, and sailed downriver in an easterly direction until they came to the sea, whereupon they turned west and sailed across the sea for thirty months before ending up at the place from which, as I related earlier, the Phoenicians had set out on the instructions of the Egyptian king to sail around Libya. After this successful circumnavigation, Darius conquered the Indians and made use of the sea they had crossed. And so all of Asia except the eastern part has been found to have the same features as Libya.

[45] No one knows for certain whether or not there is sea either to the east or to the north of Europe; it is known, however, that lengthwise it is equal to the other two continents together. I have no idea why the earth—which is, after all, single—has three separate names (each of which is the name of a woman), or why the boundaries have been set as the Nile in Egypt and the Phasis in Colchis (or, as some say, the River Tanaïs at Lake Maeetis and the Cimmerian Straits), nor can I find out the names of those who decided upon these boundaries or how the continents got their names. Most Greek authorities claim that Libya is named after a woman called Libya who was a native of that continent, and that Asia is named after the wife of Prometheus. However, the Lydians lay claim to the name too; they say that Asia is not named after Prometheus’ Asia, but after Asies the son of Cotys and grandson of Manes, who also gave his name to the tribe at Sardis called Asias. As for Europe, not only does no one know whether it is surrounded by water, but the origin of its name is also uncertain (as is the identity of the man who named it), unless we say that it is named after Europa from Tyre, and that before her time the continent was after all as nameless as the other continents were. But it is clear that Europa came from Asia and never visited the land mass which the Greeks now call Europe; her travels were limited to going from Phoenicia to Crete, and from there to Lycia. Anyway, that is enough about all this; we intend to use the standard names of the continents.

[46] The Euxine Sea—the region Darius invaded—is home to the most ignorant peoples in the world (I exclude the Scythians from this judgement). I mean, there is no tribe living on the sea to whom we could plausibly attribute cleverness (except the Scythians) nor, as far as anyone knows, has a single man of learning been born there (except Anacharsis). Although in other respects I do not find the Scythians particularly admirable, they have come up with the cleverest solution I know of to the single most important matter in human life. The crucial thing they have discovered is how to prevent anyone who attacks them from escaping, and how to avoid being caught unless they want to be detected. Since they have no towns or strongholds, but carry their homes around with them on wagons, since they are all expert at using their bows from horseback, and since they depend on cattle for food rather than on cultivated land, how could they fail to be invincible and elusive?

[47] This discovery of theirs was made in conformity with the terrain and with the assistance of the rivers. The land there is flat, grassy, and well watered, and there are almost as many rivers flowing through it as there are canals in Egypt. I will list the most notable rivers—that is, those which can be sailed up from the sea. There is the Ister with its five mouths, then the Tyras, the Hypanis, the Borysthenes, the Panticapes, the Hypacyris, the Gerrhus, and the Tanaïs. And here are their courses.

[48] The Ister, which is the westernmost river in Scythia, is the largest known river in the world. The volume of its water never changes, whether it is summer or winter. The reason for its great size is that its waters are swelled by various tributaries. Of the rivers that contribute to its size, there are five which flow through Scythia. These are the Porata (that is its Scythian name, but the Greeks call it the Pyretus), the Tiarantus, the Ararus, the Naparis, and the Ordessus. The first river on this list is a substantial river which flows east before joining the Ister; the second one, the Tiarantus, which is not so large, lies more in the west of the country; and the Ararus, the Naparis, and the Ordessus run and meet the Ister between the Porata and the Tiarantus. These tributaries of the Ister run solely within Scythia, but there is also the River Maris which rises in Agathyrsian territory, but then joins the Ister.

[49] Three further large rivers—the Atlas, the Auras, and the Tibisis—rise in the Haemus mountains and flow north before meeting the Ister. Then there are the Athrys, the Noas, and the Artanes, which flow through Thrace and the land of the Crobyzan Thracians before joining the Ister. The River Scius rises in Mount Rhodope in Paeonian territory, flows through the middle of the Haemus range, and then joins the Ister. The River Angrus rises in Illyrian territory and flows north to the Triballic Plain, where it joins the River Brongus; since the Brongus then joins the Ister, the Ister incorporates the Angrus as well as the Brongus, and they are both substantial rivers. Then there are the Carpis and Alpis Rivers, which rise north of the land of the Ombricians, flow north, and become tributaries of the Ister. The Ister flows through the whole of Europe. It rises in the land of the Celts, who live beyond the Cynesians, further west in Europe than any other race, and then flows through the whole of Europe before entering Scythia from the side.

[50] The rivers I have mentioned are not the only ones to add their water to the Ister; there are plenty of others too, and they all go towards making the Ister the largest river in the world. I say they make the Ister the largest river, because if we take both it and the Nile on their own, just as single rivers, by its volume of water the Nile comes out ahead. After all, no rivers or streams join the Nile and add to the volume of its water. Now, the reason why the volume of water in the Ister never changes, whether it is summer or winter, is, I think, as follows. In the winter, it is its natural size, or at most a little larger, because it does not rain very much at all there in winter. It snows all through the winter, however, and then in the summer the thick snow which fell during the winter melts and pours from all directions into the Ister. So all this snow pouring into it tends to increase its volume, and so do the frequent heavy rainfalls (it rains there in the summer), but the amount of extra water that the sun draws to itself in the summer, as compared with the winter, is exactly the amount of extra water that is added to the Ister in the summer, as compared with the winter. The two amounts cancel each other out, and a balance is reached, with the result that the volume of water in the river appears never to change.

[51] This is the first of the rivers in Scythia, the Ister. The next one is the Tyras, which rises in the north and flows south. Its source is a huge lake which forms the border between Scythia and Neurian country. The Greeks living at its mouth are called Tyritae.

[52] The third river, the Hypanis, rises in Scythia. The source of this river is a large lake on the margins of which live wild white horses. The lake is rightly called the Mother of the Hypanis. For five days’ journey by boat downstream from this lake where it rises, the river’s water remains shallow and sweet, but for the four days it takes after that to get to the coast, it is terribly brackish. The reason for this is that it is joined by a bitter spring which is so brackish that despite its small size it pollutes the Hypanis, which is one of the largest rivers in the world. This spring is situated on the border between where the farming Scythians live and the Alizones. The name of the spring, which is also the name of the regíon where it rises, is Exampaeus in Scythian, or Sacred Ways in Greek. The courses of the Tyras and the Hypanis draw close to each other in Alizonian territory, but then they veer away from each other and the gap between the two rivers widens as they continue on their way.

[53] The fourth river is the Borysthenes, which is the largest of these rivers after the Ister, and is, as far as I can tell, not just the most productive river in Scythia, but in the whole world—with the exception of the Nile in Egypt which cannot be compared with any other river in this respect. But apart from the Nile, the Borysthenes is the most productive river. It not only provides wonderful, lush meadows for cattle, but outstandingly fine fish as well, in very large quantities; its water is clear where other rivers are muddy, and makes lovely drinking-water; the crops that grow on its banks are excellent, and where the land is uncultivated grass grows to a great height. Huge deposits of salt build up at its mouth of their own accord. The river is home to large invertebrate fish called antakaioi, which the Scythians preserve by salting, and to many other remarkable creatures. Up until the region of the Gerrhians, which is forty days’ journey by boat upstream (since it flows from north to south), its course is known, but no one can say whose lands it runs through north of there. However, it is clear that after running through uninhabited land it reaches the territory of the farming Scythians, because they live on its banks for the distance of a ten-day voyage by boat. This river and the Nile are the only ones whose sources I am unable to tell—but I think no other Greek can either. Near the sea, the Borysthenes is joined by the Hypanis and together they flow into the same area of marshland. Between the mouths of the two rivers there is a headland called Hippolaus’ Point, on which there is a sanctuary to Demeter. Beyond the sanctuary, on the River Hypanis, the Borysthenites have built their town.

[54] So much for these rivers. The next one, the fifth, is called the Panticapes. It too rises in a lake and flows from the north. The land between it and the Borysthenes is occupied by the farming Scythians. Once it has passed through Hylaea, it joins the Borysthenes.

[55] The sixth river is the Hypacyris. Its source is a lake, and its course takes it through the territory of the nomadic Scythians, skirting Hylaea and the place called Achilles’ Racecourse to the west, and finally ending at the city of Carcinitis.

[56] The seventh river is the Gerrhus. It branches off from the Borysthenes about where the course of the Borysthenes becomes obscure. The district where it branches off is called Gerrhus, and the river has the same name as the place. Then it flows down towards the sea, forming a boundary between the land of the nomadic Scythians and that of the Royal Scythians, and issues into the Hypacyris.

[57] The eighth river is the Tanaïs. The source of this river is a large lake, and then it ends at an even larger lake called Lake Maeetis, which forms a boundary between the Royal Scythians and the Sauromatae. The Tanaïs has a tributary called the Hyrgis.

[58] It is clear, then, that Scythia is very well off for notable rivers. However, the grass which grows there and is eaten by the cattle is the most bile-producing grass in the known world. It is the opening of the cattle that allows one to make this judgement.

[59] So the most important natural resources are abundantly at their disposal; as for the rest, their customs are as follows. The only gods they worship are Hestia (who is their most important deity), then Zeus and Earth (whom they regard as the wife of Zeus), then Apollo, Heavenly Aphrodite, Heracles, and Ares. All Scythians worship these gods, but the Royal Scythians also worship Poseidon. The Scythian name for Hestia is Tabiti, while Zeus (perfectly appropriately, in my opinion) is called Papaeus, Earth Api, Apollo Goetosyrus, Heavenly Aphrodite Argimpasa, and Poseidon Thagimasadas. However, it is not their custom to make statues or altars or temples for any of their gods, except for Ares; they do have this custom in his case.

[60] The way all the Scythians conduct sacrifices, which is identical whatever the particular rite that is being performed, is as follows. The victim stands there with its front legs tied together, and the person performing the sacrifice stands behind the animal and tugs on his end of the rope, which brings the creature down, and while it is falling, he invokes the god for whom the sacrifice is being carried out; then he wraps a noose around the victim’s neck, inserts a stick into the noose and twists it until he has strangled the victim to death. In other words, the procedure does not involve lighting a fire, or consecrating the victim, or pouring libations. Once the worshipper has throttled the victim and skinned it, he turns his attention to cooking the meat.

[61] Now, Scythia is more or less entirely treeless, so they have come up with an unusual method of stewing the meat. Once they have skinned the victim, they strip the meat off the bones and then put the meat into a pot, if they happen to have one; these pots are of a local design and most closely resemble Lesbian bowls, except that they are much bigger. When they have put the meat in the pot, they make a fire out of the victim’s bones and cook the meat that way. If they do not have a pot, they wrap all the meat up inside the victim’s stomach, add water, and then make a fire out of the bones. The bones burn very well, and the stomachs easily hold the meat once it has been stripped off the bones. In other words, the cow—or whatever animal the victim is—cooks itself! Once the meat is cooked, the worshipper takes some of the meat and the innards as first-fruits and throws them forward. Their most common sacrificial victims are horses, but domestic animals are also used.

[62] That is how they perform sacrifices to most of their gods, and these are the animals they use, but in Ares’ case things are different. In every district, within each province, a sanctuary has been constructed to Ares. The design of these sanctuaries is as follows. Bundles of sticks are piled together into a block about three stades long by three stades wide, but not so high off the ground. On top of this pile of sticks is built a square platform, three of whose sides are sheer, while the other is climbable. Each year they add a hundred and fifty cart-loads of sticks, to make up for the subsidence caused by the winter’s storms. On top of this structure the inhabitants of each district place an ancient iron akinakes, which is taken to represent Ares. The festival takes place once a year, and at it they offer this akinakes more domestic animals and horses as sacrificial victims than all the other gods receive. They also sacrifice prisoners of war to this akinakes, though the method is different from when domestic animals are the victims. One prisoner in every hundred is selected; they pour wine over the prisoners’ heads, cut their throats so that the blood spills into a jar, and then carry the jars up on to the pile of sticks and pour the blood over the akinakes. While the jars are being taken up there, something else is happening down below, by the side of the sanctuary: they cut off the right arms of all the slaughtered men—the whole arm, from shoulder to hand—and hurl them into the air. Then they sacrifice all the rest of the victims and leave. The arms are left lying wherever they fall, detached from the corpses.

[63] So that is how they perform sacrifices. They never use pigs as sacrificial animals, and in fact they prefer not to keep them in their country at all.

[64] Here is how they conduct themselves in war. When a Scythian kills his first man, he drinks some of his blood. He presents the king with the heads of those he kills in battle, because his reward for doing so is a share of the spoils they have taken in the battle, but no head means no spoils. The way a Scythian skins a head is as follows: he makes a circular cut around the head at the level of the ears and then he picks it up and shakes the scalp off the skull: next he scrapes the skin with a cow’s rib, and then, having kneaded the skin with his hands, he has a kind of rag, which he proudly fastens to the bridle of the horse he is riding. The reason for his pride is that the more of these skin rags a man has, the braver he is counted. Many of them make coats to wear by sewing the scalps together into a patchwork leather garment like leather coats. Another common practice is to skin the right arms of their dead opponents, fingernails and all, and make covers for their quivers out of them. Human skin, apparently, is thick and shiny-white—shinier, in fact, than any other kind of skin. They also often skin the whole of a corpse and stretch the skin on a wooden frame which they then carry around on their horses.

[65] So much for these practices of theirs. As for the actual skulls—the skulls of their enemies, that is, not all skulls—they saw off the bottom part of the skull at the level of the eyebrows and clean out the top bit. A poor Scythian then wraps a piece of untanned cow-hide tightly around the outside of the skull and puts it to use like that, while a rich Scythian goes further: after wrapping it in cowhide he gilds the inside and then uses it as a cup. Also, if a Scythian falls out with one of his relatives, they fight to the death in the presence of their king, and the winner treats the loser’s skull in the way I have just described. When he has important visitors, he produces these skulls and tells how they had once been his relatives, and how they made war on him, but he defeated them. This they call courage.

[66] Once a year, each provincial governor is in charge of a ceremony that takes place in his province. He mixes a bowl of wine, and all the Scythians who have killed an enemy that year have a drink from it. Anyone who has not managed to do this does not partake of the wine, but sits to one side in disgrace—which is the greatest indignity there is for them. Any of them who have killed large numbers of men are given two cups to drink together.

[67] There are a lot of diviners in Scythia; the divinatory method they practise involves a large number of willow rods. First they bring their rods wrapped up in large bundles, put them on the ground, and unroll the bundles; then they position the rods one by one and make their prophecies, while simultaneously wrapping the rods back up again one by one into a bundle. This is the traditional method of divination in Scythia, but the hermaphroditic enareis have another method which they claim was a gift from Aphrodite. They take some of the inner bark from a lime-tree, divide it into three pieces, and then make their prophecy while plaiting and unplaiting it with their fingers.

[68] If the Scythian king ever falls ill, he sends for the three most respected diviners, who use the divinatory method I have already described. They usually say something to the effect that such and such a person—they identify one of their fellow countrymen—has falsely sworn by the king’s hearth, which is the usual form of oath when a Scythian wants to make a particularly solemn oath. The person they named as the liar is immediately arrested and brought to the king, and the diviners then accuse him of having been found by their divinatory skill to have falsely sworn by the king’s hearth and so caused the king’s illness. He denies that he has perjured himself and vehemently protests his innocence, whereupon the king sends for double the number of diviners. If they too convict him of lying under oath as a result of what they see in their divinations, he is immediately beheaded and his property is divided among the first three diviners; however, if the newly arrived diviners acquit him, more and more diviners come, and if the majority find him innocent, it is the Scythian custom for the orginal three diviners to be executed.

[69] Here is how they kill them. First they fill a cart with sticks and yoke oxen to it, then they tie the diviners’ feet together, tie their hands behind their backs, gag them, and confine them in the middle of the pile of sticks; finally, they set the sticks on fire and frighten the oxen into motion. It is not uncommon for the oxen to be burnt to death along with the diviners, but the pole often burns through, which enables the oxen to escape slightly singed. Death by burning in this way is also how they kill their diviners if they find them guilty of other crimes too, calling them false prophets. The children of people executed by the king are not safe either: he has every male child killed, although he leaves the females alone.

[70] The procedure in Scythia for entering into a sworn agreement with anyone is as follows. Wine is poured into a large earthenware cup, and then the people swearing the oath are either jabbed with an awl or cut a little somewhere on their bodies with a knife, so that their blood mingles with the wine in the cup. Then they dip into the cup an akinakes, some arrows, a sagaris, and a javelin. After that, they offer up a lot of prayers, and then the people entering into the compact and the most valued members of their retinue drink down the blood-and-wine mixture.

[71] Their kings are buried in the territory of the Gerrhians, at the point where, travelling upstream, the Borysthenes ceases to be navigable. On the death of one of their kings, they dig a huge square pit in the ground there, and when this is ready they take up the wax-covered corpse (which has previously had its stomach opened up, cleaned out, filled with chopped galingale, incense, celery-seeds, and aniseed, and then sewn back up again) and carry it in a wagon to another tribe. The people to whom the corpse has been brought do what the Royal Scythians have already done: they cut one of their ears, shave their heads, slash their arms, mutilate their foreheads and noses, and pierce their left hands with arrows. Then the king’s corpse is taken on its wagon to another one of the tribes within the Scythian realm, with its retinue being made up of people from the tribe to which the corpse had previously been transported. Finally, after going around all the tribes with the corpse, they come to the Gerrhians, who are the most remote of the tribes within the Scythian realm, and to the tombs. Here, they lay the corpse in his grave on a pallet. Then they stick spears into the ground on both sides of the corpse and make a roof out of wooden planks covered with rush matting. There is still open space left within the grave, and in it they bury, after throttling them to death, one of the king’s concubines, his wine-server, cook, groom, steward, and messenger, and some horses and a proportion of all his other possessions, including some golden cups. They do not put anything of silver or bronze in the grave. Then they cover the grave with a huge mound of earth, and they all eagerly compete with one another to make the mound as big as possible.

[72] After a year has gone by, they choose the fifty most suitable of the dead king’s remaining attendants and throttle both them and his fifty finest horses to death. The king’s attendants are native Scythians; there are no bought slaves in Scythia, but anyone the king orders to be his attendant complies. Once the fifty servants and the fifty horses are dead, they gut them, clean them out, fill them up with chaff, and then sew them up again. Next they halve a wheel and fix each of the two halves, cut side up, in the ground on two stakes, and repeat this process over and over again. Then they drive a thick pole through each of the horses, all the way up to their necks, and use them to mount the horses on the wheels in such a way that the front wheels support the horses’ shoulders and the rear wheels support their bellies next to their thighs, and all four legs are dangling off the ground. The horses are then fitted out with bridles and bits, and the reins are pulled forward over their heads and tied to pegs. Then they mount each of the fifty young men they have strangled to death on one of the horses by driving a pole upright through his body along his spine as far as his neck; and they fix the projecting lower end of this pole into a socket bored into the other pole, the one which goes through the horse. They set up these horsemen in a circle around the grave, and then ride off.

[73] That is how they bury their kings. As for the rest of the Scythian population, when one of them dies, his closest relatives put his body on a wagon and take it round to his friends, each of whom makes the entourage welcome and gives them a meal at which the corpse is served the same food and drink as everyone else. The corpse of a member of the general populace of Scythia is taken around to his friends like this for forty days, and then buried. After burying their dead, Scythians purify themselves. First they anoint and rinse their hair, then, for their bodies, they lean three poles against one another, cover the poles with felted woollen blankets, making sure that they fit together as tightly as possible, and then put red-hot stones from the fire on to a dish which has been placed in the middle of the pole-and-blanket structure.

[74] Now, there is a plant growing in their country called cannabis, which closely resembles flax, except that cannabis is thicker-stemmed and taller. In Scythia, in fact, it is far taller. It grows wild, but is also cultivated, and the Thracians use it, as well as flax, for making clothes. These clothes are so similar to ones made out of flax that it would take a real expert to tell the difference between the two materials. Anyone unfamiliar with cannabis would suppose that the clothes were linen.

[75] Anyway, the Scythians take cannabis seeds, crawl in under the felt blankets, and throw the seeds on to the glowing stones. The seeds then emit dense smoke and fumes, much more than any vapour-bath in Greece. The Scythians shriek with delight at the fumes. This is their equivalent of a bath, since they never wash their bodies with water. Their women, however, pound cypress, cedar, and frankincense wood on a rough piece of stone, and add water until they have a thick paste which they then smear all over their bodies and faces. This not only makes them smell nice, but when they remove the paste the day after they turn out to be all clean and shining.

[76] The Scythians are another people who are absolutely set against adopting customs imported from anyone else, especially Greeks. This is clear from what happened to Anacharsis and then later to Scyles. As for Anacharsis, he visited many countries all over the world and became known for his great wisdom wherever he went. On his way back home to Scythia, he was sailing through the Hellespont and he put in at Cyzicus, where he found the inhabitants in the middle of an extremely impressive festival sacred to the Mother of the Gods. Anacharsis himself prayed to the Mother that if he got back home safe and sound, he would offer the same sacrifices to her that he had seen the Cyzicans offering, and would keep a night vigil in her honour. So after his return to Scythia, he slipped into Hylaea (a thickly wooded region, filled with all kinds of trees, which lies next to Achilles’ Racecourse) and performed all the rites to the goddess, since he had a drum and had tied cult images of the goddess on to himself. However, his actions were spotted by a certain Scythian, who reported him to King Saulius. The king came in person, saw Anacharsis performing the rites, and shot him dead with bow and arrow. Even nowadays, if anyone mentions Anacharsis’ name, the Scythians claim not to recognize it—and this is all because he travelled to Greece and adopted foreign practices. Now, I was told by Tymnes the steward of Ariapithes that Anacharsis was the paternal uncle of King Idanthyrsus of Scythia (and was the son of Gnurus, grandson of Lycus and great-grandson of Spargapithes). If this is Anacharsis’ lineage, he should know that he was killed by his own brother, because Idanthyrsus was the son of Saulius, and it was Saulius who killed Anacharsis.

[77] However, I once heard a different story from the Peloponnesians, to the effect that it was the Scythian king who sent Anacharsis to Greece to find out what he could, and that on his return he told the king who had given him this mission that none of the Greeks had any time for any kind of wisdom, except the Lacedaemonians, who were the only ones with whom it was possible to hold a sensible conversation. But this story is an amusing fiction, made up by the Greeks themselves. In any case, the man was killed, as I mentioned earlier. So that is what interest in foreign practices and contact with the Greeks brought him.

[78] A great many years later, almost the same thing happened to Scyles the son of Ariapithes. Scyles was one of the sons of King Ariapithes of Scythia, but his mother was not a native Scythian; she came from Istria, and she taught Scyles to speak and read Greek. Later, when Ariapithes died (thanks to the treachery of King Spargapithes of the Agathyrsians), Scyles inherited not only the kingdom, but also his father’s wife, a Scythian woman named Opoea, who had already borne Ariapithes a son called Oricus. Scyles ruled over the Scythians, but he was not happy with the Scythian way of life; as a result of his upbringing, he was far more inclined towards things Greek. So whenever during the course of a military campaign he came to the Borysthenites (who claim to be Milesians originally), he used to leave his army just outside the town while he himself would go inside the town walls and lock the gates. Once he was inside, he would take off his Scythian clothes and dress himself up in Greek attire. Then, wearing these Greek clothes, he would walk around the town entirely unaccompanied by anyone—not even his personal guards; the gates were guarded, to stop any Scythian seeing him dressed like this. For a month or more, he would adopt a Greek way of life, including worshipping the gods in the traditional Greek way, and then he would put his Scythian clothing back on and leave. He used to do this a lot; he even built a house in Borysthenes, where he kept a local woman he had married.

[79] Now, Scyles was destined to come to a bad end, and this came about under the following circumstances. He wanted to perform the rites of Bacchic Dionysus, but just as he was about to do so, a tremendous omen occurred. As I mentioned just now, he had a substantial and luxurious walled house in the Borysthenite community (which was surrounded by white stone statues of sphinxes and griffins). Zeus struck this house with a bolt of lightning. Despite the fact that the house burnt to the ground, Scyles still completed the ceremony. Now, the Bacchic rites are one of the aspects of Greek culture of which the Scythians disapprove, on the grounds that it is unreasonable to seek out a god who drives people out of their minds. So after Scyles had performed the Bacchic rites, one of the Borysthenites hurried off to the Scythians and said, ‘You may mock our Bacchic rites, men of Scythia, and the fact that the god takes hold of us, but now the god has taken hold of your own king, and he is in a state of Bacchic frenzy. If you don’t believe me, come and I will show you.’

The leaders of the Scythians went with the Borysthenite, who took them and placed them secretly in a high tower. When the sacred procession went past the building, with Scyles in it, they could see that he was possessed by Dionysus. They thought this was a disaster, and on leaving they told the whole Scythian army what they had seen.

[80] The upshot of all this was that Scyles came home to find that his brother Octamasades (the son of Teres’ daughter) had been chosen by the Scythians to lead a rebellion against him. As soon as he became aware of the hostility towards him and the cause of it, he fled to Thrace. When Octamasades heard about this, he marched against Thrace. The Thracians met him when he reached the Ister, but just before battle was joined Sitalces sent a man to Octamasades with the following message: ‘You are my sister’s son. Why should we fight each other? You have my brother with you. If you give him back to me, I’ll hand Scyles over to you, and neither of us need endanger the lives of our men.’ This was the message Sitalces sent, because his brother had taken refuge with Octamasades when he fled into exile. Octamasades liked this plan and exchanged his uncle for his brother Scyles. When Sitalces got his brother back, he withdrew his forces, but Octamasades beheaded Scyles on the spot. The Scythians are so conservative, then, that this is how they treat people who adopt foreign ways.

[81] It was impossible for me to find out exactly the size of the Scythian population; I kept receiving conflicting reports of their numbers. Some people said there were huge numbers of Scythians, while others said that there were few of them—few genuine Scythians, that is. However, I was shown something relevant to the issue. Between the Borysthenes and the Hypanis there is a district called Exampaeus, which I mentioned a short while ago, when I was talking about the brackish spring there which flows into the Hypanis and makes its water undrinkable. Now, in Exampaeus there is a bronze vessel which is six times as big as the bowl that Pausanias the son of Cleombrotus set up at the mouth of the Euxine Sea. For the sake of anyone who has not seen Pausanias’ bowl, I should explain that the vessel in Scythia easily holds six hundred amphoras of liquid, and that it is six fingers thick. Now, I was told by the local Scythians that this bowl was made out of arrowheads. What happened was that one of their kings, who was called Ariantas, wanted to know how many Scythians there were, so he issued a proclamation that every Scythian was to bring a single arrowhead, and that anyone who failed to do so would be put to death. A huge quantity of arrowheads were brought, and the king decided to use them to construct a monument for posterity. So he used them to make this bronze vessel, and he chose this place Exampaeus to be its site. That is what I heard about the size of the Scythian population.

[82] The land does not really have remarkable features except for the size and number of its rivers. However, apart from its rivers and the size of its plain, one remarkable phenomenon I should mention is a footprint of Heracles, which they point out imprinted in a rock by the Tyras River. It is just like a normal human footprint, except that it is two cubits long. Having dealt with all this, I will now return to the events I originally set out to narrate.

[83] Darius was getting ready to invade Scythia. He sent out messengers in all directions, ordering some of his subjects to supply him with foot-soldiers, others ships, and others to build a bridge over the Thracian Bosporus. But while these preparations were in progress, his brother Artabanus the son of Hystaspes asked him to cancel his expedition against the Scythians and cited the difficulty of getting at them as the reason for his request. This was sound advice, but he eventually gave up the fruitless task of trying to convince his brother; and when all his preparations were complete, Darius began to move his army out of Susa.

[84] At this point a Persian called Oeobazus, all three of whose sons were in the army, asked Darius whether one of them could be left behind. Darius replied in a friendly fashion, as if the request were reasonable, and said that he would leave all three behind. Oeobazus was overjoyed at the prospect of his sons being released from military service, but Darius ordered those responsible for such things to kill all three of them. So he did leave them there in Susa—with their throats cut.

[85] Darius left Susa and made his way to Chalcedon, to the part of the Bosporus where the bridge had been built. He went on board a ship and sailed from there to the Blue Rocks, as they are known, which according to the Greeks were in the past wandering rocks. There he sat on a promontory and looked out over the Euxine Sea, which is the most remarkable sea in the world, and is a sight well worth seeing. It is 11,100 stades long and, at its widest point, 3,300 stades wide. Its mouth is 4 stades wide, but the straits which form its mouth† are 120 stades long; these straits are called the Bosporus, and this is where the bridge had been built. At the other end of the Bosporus is the Propontis, which is 500 stades wide and 1,400 stades long; the Propontis joins the Hellespont, which is only 7 stades wide, but 400 long; and then the Hellespont joins the open sea, and this is the Aegean Sea.

[86] The method used to reach these measurements was as follows. In summer, when the days are long, a ship usually sails roughly 70,000 fathoms a day and 60,000 a night. The Euxine Sea is at its longest between its mouth and Phasis, and this journey takes nine days and eight nights to sail, which comes to 1,110,000 fathoms or, converting fathoms into stades, 11,100 stades. Then its widest stretch is from Sindica to Themiscyre, on the River Thermodon, and this is a voyage of three days and two nights, which comes to 330,000 fathoms or 3,300 stades. So this is how I worked out the dimensions of the Euxine Sea we have just been talking about, and also of the Bosporus and the Hellespont; they are as I have stated. The Euxine Sea also has a lake flowing into it which is not much smaller than itself, and which is called Lake Maeetis, or the Mother of the Euxine.

[87] When Darius had finished gazing at the Euxine Sea, he sailed back to the bridge (the chief engineer of which was Mandrocles of Samos). Then he inspected the Bosporus too, and erected two marble pillars by it, on which he inscribed (one in Assyrian, the other in Greek) a list of all the tribes and peoples he had brought with him—and he brought all the ones he ruled. The total number of men—including cavalry contingents, but excluding the fleet—was 700,000, and then there were six hundred ships assembled there too. Later the Byzantians removed these pillars and used them for the altar of Artemis the Saviour in their city, except for one block of stone, which was left by the temple of Dionysus in Byzantium, covered in Assyrian writing. According to my calculations, the place on the Bosporus where Darius built his bridge was half-way between Byzantium and the sanctuary at the mouth of the straits.

[88] Next Darius showed his appreciation of the pontoon bridge by showering the engineer, Mandrocles of Samos, with gifts, tenfold of everything. With a portion of his reward Mandrocles commissioned a painting of the whole bridging of the Bosporus, with King Darius sitting on a dais and his army crossing the bridge. When the picture had been painted, he dedicated it in the temple of Hera, and he wrote the following inscription:

This painting Mandrocles dedicated to Hera, to commemorate
His bridging of the fish-rich Bosporus with a pontoon;
His feat won the approval of King Darius,
And earned a crown for himself and glory for the Samians.

This was how the engineer of the bridge commemorated his achievement.

[89] So Darius crossed over into Europe. As well as rewarding Mandrocles, he had also ordered the Ionians to take the navy into the Euxine Sea and sail to the River Ister, where they were to bridge the river and wait for him. For the navy was commanded by the Ionians, Aeolians, and Hellespontine Greeks. So the fleet sailed between the Blue Rocks and made straight for the Ister. They sailed up river for two days’ journey away from the coast, and then bridged the neck of the river, where it divides into separate mouths. Meanwhile Darius crossed over the Bosporus on the pontoon bridge and made his way through Thrace, until he reached the springs of the River Tearus, where he pitched camp for three days.

[90] The local inhabitants claim that the waters of the Tearus have various healing properties, including the ability to cure both people and horses of scurvy. There are thirty-eight springs there, all issuing out of a single rock-face. Some of them are cold, but others are hot. They are equidistant from the town of Heraeum, which is near Perinthus, and from Apollonia on the Euxine Sea; in both cases, it takes two days to travel to the springs. The Tearus joins the Contadesdus, which in turn joins the Agrianes, which joins the Hebrus, which issues into the sea at the city of Aenus.

[91] Anyway, Darius pitched camp by this river. He liked the river, so he set up a pillar there too. The inscription on this one read: ‘There is no better or finer water in the world than that of the springs of the River Tearus. And to them there came, leading an army against the Scythians, the best and finest man in the world, Darius the son of Hystaspes, king of Persia and the whole continent.’ That was what he had inscribed on the pillar there.

[92] Darius continued on his way, and came next to another river called the Artescus, which flows through the land of the Odrysians. Here he had every man in his army pass by a particular spot designated by him and place a single stone there. His men carried out these orders, and, leaving behind huge mounds of stones, Darius marched on.

[93] Before reaching the Ister, he first conquered the Getae, who believe themselves to be immortal. The Thracians holding Salmydessus and those living inland from Apollonia and Mesambria, who are called the Scyrmiadae and the Nipsaei, surrendered to Darius without a fight. The Getae, however, who are the most courageous and upright Thracian tribe, offered stiff resistance, and were promptly enslaved.

[94] Their belief in their immortality takes the following form. Rather than dying, they believe that on death a person goes to a deity called Salmoxis (or Gebeleïzis, as some of them call him). At five-year intervals, they cast lots to choose someone to send to Salmoxis as their messenger, with instructions as to what favours they want him to grant on that occasion. This is how they send the messenger. They arrange three lances, with men to hold them, and then others grab the hands and feet of the one being sent to Salmoxis and throw him up into the air and on to the points of the lances. If he dies from being impaled, they regard this as a sign that the god will look favourably on their requests. If he does not die, however, they blame this failure on the messenger himself, call him a bad man, and then find someone else to send. They tell him the message they want him to take to Salmoxis while he is still alive. Another thing these Thracians do is fire arrows up into the sky, when thunder and lightning occur, and hurl threats at the god, because they recognize no god other than their own.

[95] I am told by the Greeks who live around the Hellespont and the Euxine Sea that this Salmoxis was a human being—a slave on Samos; in fact, he belonged to Pythagoras the son of Mnesarchus. When he gained his freedom, he amassed a considerable fortune there, and then returned to his native land. Now, Salmoxis had experienced life in Ionia and was familiar with Ionian customs, which are more profound than those of the Thracians, who are an uncivilized and rather naïve people; after all, he had associated with Greeks, and in particular with Pythagoras, who was hardly the weakest intellect in Greece. So they say he furnished a dining-room, where he entertained his most eminent countrymen, and taught them, while he wined and dined them, that he would not die, and neither would they, his guests, and neither would any of their descendants. Instead, he explained, they would go to the kind of place† where they would live for ever in possession of every blessing. But all the time, while he was holding these meetings and teaching this doctrine, he was building an underground chamber. When this chamber was finished, he disappeared, as far as the Thracians were concerned; he descended into his underground chamber and lived there for three years. The Thracians missed him and mourned him as if he were dead, but after three years he reappeared, and so validated what he had been teaching them. That is what I am told he did.

[96] Personally, I am not entirely convinced by this story about Salmoxis and his underground chamber, but I do not entirely disbelieve it either. However, I do think that Salmoxis lived a long time before Pythagoras. There might have been a human being called Salmoxis, or he might be a local Getan deity—but I am not going to pursue the matter further, beyond saying what I have said about Getan practices. Anyway, once the Getae had been defeated by the Persians, they were conscripted into his army.

[97] Darius and his army eventually reached the Ister, and when all his men had crossed over to the other side, he told the Ionians to dismantle the pontoon bridge and ordered them, and the rest of the men from the ships, to join the main body of the army on their overland march. The Ionians were poised to dismantle the pontoon bridge and do what he said when Coës the son of Erxander, who was the commander of the contingent from Mytilene, made a proposal to Darius, having first checked that he would be willing to receive an opinion from anyone who cared to speak out. ‘My lord,’ he said, ‘you are about to invade a land where agriculture is completely unknown and there are no settlements. I would suggest that you leave this bridge in place, and let the men who built it stay behind to guard it. Then, if we find the Scythians and do what we came for, we have a way out of the country afterwards; alternatively, if we fail to locate them, our return, at least, is ensured. I’m confident that the Scythians will never defeat us in battle, but I still worry in case something untoward happens to us as we roam here and there trying and failing to locate them. Now, it might be argued that I am saying this for myself, so that I can stay behind, but in fact I have come to the conclusion that this plan is the best one for you, my lord, and so I am sharing it with you. As for me, I will not stay behind; I will march with the army.’

Darius thoroughly approved of his idea and he responded by saying, ‘When I have got back home safe and sound, my Lesbian friend, come and see me. I want to do you good in return for your good advice.’

[98] He then tied sixty knots on a leather strap and summoned the Ionian rulers to a conference. ‘Men of Ionia, I have changed my mind about the bridge,’ he announced. ‘I withdraw my earlier instructions. What I want you to do instead is take this strap and untie a knot a day, starting from the moment you see me set out for Scythia. If I have not returned by the time the number of days indicated by the knots have passed, you should sail back to your own country. But until then—this is the change of plan—guard the pontoon bridge and do everything you can to keep it intact and safe. If you do so, I will hold you in high favour.’ After this speech, Darius rapidly moved matters along.

[99] Thrace projects into the sea beyond Scythia. There is a gulf in Thrace, which is where Scythia begins and also where the Ister issues into the sea, with its mouth facing east. I will now describe the size of the coastline of Scythia from the Ister eastwards. Scythia begins immediately after the Ister† and ends, on its southern coast, at the city of Carcinitis. The hilly land from Carcinitis onwards along the same coast is inhabited by the Taurians up until the peninsula which is known as the Rugged Peninsula, which juts into the sea to the east. The point is that, just like Attica, two sides of Scythia’s borders reach the sea, to the south and to the east. The comparison with Attica would be very close if it were some other race, and not Athenians, who inhabited Cape Sunium (which would have to jut out further into the sea) from Thoricus to the village of Anaphlystus, just as Taurians inhabit this part of Scythia. That is what Taurian territory is like—though in saying this, I am comparing something small with something large. However, for the sake of those who have not sailed past this part of the coastline of Attica, I will put it another way. It is as if some other race, and not the Iapygians, were to have taken over the Iapygian headland from the Bay of Brundisium to Tarentum and were to be living there. I mention these two places as examples of a number of other places which Taurian territory resembles.

[100] The land to the north of the Taurians and by the eastern part of the sea is inhabited by Scythians, as is the country west of the Cimmerian Bosporus and west of Lake Maeetis up to the River Tanaïs, which issues into the head of the lake. Then, starting from the Ister and moving inland in a northerly direction, Scythia is bounded first by the Agathyrsians, then by the Neurians, then by the Cannibals, and finally by the Black Cloaks.

[101] We may take it, then, that Scythia is square, with two of its sides coming down to the sea, and with its inland perimeter equal to the length of its coastline. For it is a journey of ten days from the Ister to the Borysthenes, and from the Borysthenes to Lake Maeetis takes another ten days; and then it is also a journey of twenty days inland from the coast up to the Black Cloaks who live north of Scythia. I calculate a day’s journey to be two hundred stades. Therefore, on its east-west axis Scythia is 4,000 stades long, and on its north-south axis (that is, tending inland) it is again 4,000 stades long. Anyway, these are the country’s dimensions.

[102] The Scythians reflected that they did not have the ability to repel Darius’ army by themselves in a straight fight, so they sent messengers to their neighbours, whose kings had already convened a conference and were considering what action to take in the face of the great army marching against them. At the conference were the kings of the Taurians, the Agathyrsians, the Neurians, the Cannibals, the Black Cloaks, the Gelonians, the Budinians, and the Sauromatae.

[103] Here are some details of the customs and practices of these tribes. The Taurians sacrifice to the Maiden shipwrecked sailors and any Greeks they capture at sea. What they do is first consecrate the victim, and then hit him on the head with a club. Some say that they then push the body off the cliff at the top of which their shrine is located, but impale the head on a stake; others claim that the body is buried in the ground, rather than being pushed off the cliff, although they agree about the head. The Taurians actually claim that this goddess—the one to whom the sacrifice is made—is Iphigenia the daughter of Agamemnon. If the Taurians capture their enemies, each of them cuts off a head and takes it back to his house, where he sticks it on the end of a long pole and sets it up to tower high above his house, usually over the chimney. It is their belief that these heads, hanging there, protect the whole household. They live off the spoils of war.

[104] The Agathyrsians are the most refined of the tribespeople we are talking about, and invariably wear golden jewellery. Any woman is available to any man for sex, to ensure that the men are all brothers and that they are on amicable and good terms with one another, since they are all relatives. In other respects their way of life is similar to that of the Thracians.

[105] The Neurians use Scythian customs. A generation before Darius’ campaign snakes made them completely evacuate the region. In addition to their own country producing large numbers of snakes, even more snakes surged in upon them from the empty lands to the north, until they were forced to leave their own country and began to live with the Budinians. The men may well be magicians, since the Scythians and the Greeks who live in Scythia say that once a year every Neurian becomes a wolf for a few days and then reverts to his original state. Personally I do not believe this, but they make the claim despite its implausibility, and even swear that they are telling the truth.

[106] The Cannibals are the most savage people in the world; they have no sense of right and wrong, and their life is governed by no rules or traditions. They are nomads. The clothes they wear are similar to the ones the Scythians wear, but they speak a distinct language. Theirs is the only one of these tribes to eat human flesh.

[107] The Black Cloaks all wear black clothing, which is how they got their name. Their way of life is Scythian.

[108] The Budinians are a large and populous tribe, with piercing grey eyes and bright red hair. There is a town in their country called Gelonus, which is made out of wood. Each side of its high outer wall is thirty stades long, made entirely of wood, and wood has been used for all its houses and shrines too. They have sanctuaries there which are dedicated to the Greek gods and are equipped in the Greek manner with statues, altars and buildings of wood; and every third year they celebrate a festival to Dionysus and become possessed by the god. This is because the inhabitants of Gelonus were originally Greeks from the trading-centres, who moved away from there and settled among the Budinians. Their language is a mixture of Scythian and Greek.

[109] The Budinians, however, differ from the Gelonians in both language and lifestyle. The Budinians, who are nomadic, are the indigenous inhabitants of the country, and they are the only race there to eat lice, whereas the Gelonians are farmers, grain-eaters, and gardeners; moreover, the two sets of people are altogether dissimilar in appearance and colouring. However, the Budinians as well as the Gelonians are incorrectly called Gelonians by the Greeks. The land is entirely covered with forests of every conceivable species of tree. In the largest forest, there is a large, wide lake, surrounded by a reedy marsh. They capture otters and beavers in this lake, and also a square-faced creature whose skin they sew as trimming on to their jackets, and whose testicles are good for healing diseases of the womb.

[110] Here is a story about the Sauromatae. It is set during the war between the Greeks and the Amazons, for whom the Scythian name is Oeorpata, which, translated into Greek, means ‘killers of men’, because oior is ‘man’ in Scythian, and pata means ‘to kill’. So the story goes that after their victory over the Amazons at the battle of Thermodon, the Greeks sailed away in three ships, taking with them all the Amazons they had been able to capture alive. When they were out at sea, the women set upon the men and killed them, but they did not know anything about ships or how to use the rudders, sails, or oars; consequently, having done away with the men, they began to drift at the mercy of the waves and winds. They fetched up in Lake Maeetis, at the place called Cremni, which is in country inhabited by the free Scythians. The Amazons went ashore there and made their way to inhabited territory. The first thing they came across was a herd of horses, which they promptly seized, and then they began to ride about on these horses robbing the Scythians of their property.

[111] The Scythians could not understand what was going on. They could not make out the newcomers’ nationality from their unfamiliar language and clothing; in short, they were puzzled as to where they had come from. Taking them to be young men, however, they fought against them. After the battle, the Scythians were left in possession of the corpses, and so they realized that they were women. They discussed what to do, and came to the conclusion that they should not make any further attempts at all to kill the women. Instead they decided to send a band of their youngest men to the women, approximately the same number of men as there were women. These young men were to pitch camp near where the women were, and do exactly what the Amazons did. If the women chased them, they were to run away without putting up a fight, and when the women stopped chasing them, they were to return and set up camp near by again. The point of the Scythians’ plan was that they wanted to have children by the women.

[112] So the detachment of young men carried out their orders. When the Amazons realized that they had not come to harm them, they let them be, and day by day the distance between the two camps grew less. Just like the Amazons, the young men had nothing except their weapons and their horses; they lived in exactly the same way as the women, by hunting and raiding.

[113] In the middle of every day the Amazons used to split up into ones or twos and go some way apart from one another in order to relieve themselves. When the Scythians noticed this, they did the same thing. One of them approached one of the women who was all alone, and the Amazon did not repulse him, but let him have intercourse with her. She could not speak to him, because they did not understand each other, but she used gestures to tell him to return the next day to the same place and to bring someone else with him; she made it clear to him that there should be two of them, and that she would bring another woman with her too. The young man returned to his camp and told the others the news. He kept the appointment the next day, taking someone else along too, and found another Amazon there as well, waiting for them. When the other young men found out, they joined in and tamed the remaining Amazons.

[114] After that the two sides joined forces and lived together, forming couples consisting of a Scythian man and the Amazon with whom he had first had sex. The men found the women’s language impossible to learn, but the women managed the men’s language. When they were in a position to understand one another, the men said to the Amazons: ‘We have parents and property back home. So let’s stop living like this from now on; let’s return to the rest of our people and live with them. We will have you and no other women as our wives.’

The women, however, replied as follows: ‘We would find it impossible to live with your women, because our practices are completely different from theirs. We haven’t learnt women’s work. We shoot arrows, wield javelins, ride horses—things which your women never have anything to do with. They just stay in their wagons and do women’s work; they never go out hunting or anywhere else either. We would find it impossible to get along with them. No, if you want us to be your wives, and to appear really fair, you should go to your parents and get your share of your property, and then when you come back we can form our own community.’

[115] The young men thought this was a good idea and went and put it into practice. When they had obtained their due share of their property they returned to the Amazons, and the women said, ‘We’re very anxious about having to live here. It’s not just that we’ve separated you from your parents, but also that we’ve done a lot of damage to this country of yours. Since you want us to be your wives, let’s move together away from here and find somewhere to live on the other side of the Tanaïs River.’ The young men were convinced by this plan as well.

[116] So they crossed the River Tanaïs and travelled east for three days away from the river, and then they turned north and travelled for three more days away from Lake Maeetis. In the end they came to the country where they now live and settled there. And ever since then the Sauromatian women have kept to their original way of life: they go out hunting on horseback with or without their husbands, they go to war, and they wear the same clothes as the men do.

[117] The Sauromatae speak Scythian, but ungrammatically, as they always have done, because the Amazons never learnt it properly. One of their marriage customs is that no young woman may marry until she has killed a male enemy. Inability to fulfil this condition means that some of them die of old age without being married.

[118] Anyway, the rulers of all the tribes I have mentioned were in a conference when the Scythian messengers arrived. The messengers told them that the Persian king, who was already master of the whole of the other continent, had built a bridge across the neck of the Bosporus by which he had crossed over into their continent, and was now demonstrating his desire to gain control of everything there too, first by having defeated the Thracians, and then by building a bridge across the Ister. ‘You absolutely must not stand idly by and watch us being destroyed,’ they went on. ‘We should form a common plan and resist the invasion together. Don’t you agree? Otherwise we Scythians will be forced either to evacuate our country or, if we stay, to make some kind of deal with the Persians. For what would become of us if you refuse to support us? And that won’t make it any easier for you either, because you are the Persian’s target just as much as we are, and once he has defeated us he is not going simply to ignore you. We have good evidence to demonstrate the truth of what we’re saying. If we were the only objects of Darius’ warlike intentions—if all he wanted to do was make us pay for our time as masters of his country—he should have ignored everyone else and just invaded our territory. That way he would have made it clear that he was marching against the Scythians and no one else. But as it is, no sooner has he entered this continent of ours than he sets about subjugating everyone in his path. He has made himself the master of the whole of Thrace, including our neighbours, the Getae.’

[119] After hearing the messengers’ proposal, the kings who had come from the various tribes tried to decide what to do, but their views were divided. The Gelonian, Budinian, and Sauromatian kings unanimously promised to support the Scythians, but the kings of the Agathyrsians, the Neurians, the Cannibals, the Black Cloaks, and the Taurians made the following response to the Scythians: ‘It was you who started the war by your unjust aggression against the Persians. If you hadn’t done that, we would consider this request of yours to be fair; we would agree with your proposal and join in any action you took. But in fact it was you who invaded Persia and ruled over the inhabitants for as long as the god permitted it; we had nothing to do with it. And now that the Persians have been stirred by the same god into action, they are paying you back. We did nothing wrong to them then and we are not now going to be the first to do wrong either. However, if Darius invades our land as well and initiates hostilities against us, we will punish him.† But until this is what we see, we will stay within our own borders. We are not convinced that the Persians have come to attack us; we think they are only after those who are guilty of past wrongdoing.’

[120] In response to this retort, seeing that these allies, at any rate, would not join them, the Scythians decided against straight fighting and open warfare, and in favour of retreat. The plan was that as they rode back in retreat they would fill in any wells and springs they passed, and destroy any vegetation they found growing in the ground. They also decided to divide their forces into two. One detachment, which was ruled by Scopasis, would be reinforced by the Sauromatae, and if Darius turned in their direction, they were to pull back along a route that would take them past Lake Maeetis and straight towards the Tanaïs River; however, if Darius withdrew, they were to pursue him and attack him. So this was one of the Royal Scythians’ detachments, and their job was to take the route just mentioned. The other two divisions of the Royal Scythians—a large one ruled by Idanthyrsus and another one ruled by Taxacis—were to combine forces and, reinforced by the Gelonians and the Budinians, were also to retreat, keeping one day’s march ahead of the Persians, and to carry out the plan as they retreated. They were first to make straight for the territories of those who had refused them military support, so as to get them involved in the fighting as well (the idea being to force them to fight the Persians, since they were not prepared to enter the war of their own free will). Then they were to turn back towards their own country and attack the Persians, if that was the plan they came up with.

[121] Having come to this decision, the Scythians went out to meet Darius’ army, and sent their best horsemen ahead of the main body of their forces as an advance guard. The wagons in which all their women and children lived were sent off with orders to keep heading north, and all their livestock was sent with the wagons, except for whatever they needed for their own provisions.

[122] So off went their wagons and flocks. Meanwhile, the Scythian advance guard found the Persians about three days’ journey away from the Ister. They then camped a day’s journey in front of the Persians and set about destroying the vegetation. When the Persians saw that Scythian horsemen had appeared, they tried to get at them, following the trail the constantly retreating Scythians led them down. Now, this route took the Persians straight towards the first of the Scythian divisions, so next they chased the retreating horsemen east, in the direction of the Tanaïs. When the horsemen crossed the river, the Persians crossed over after them, passed through Sauromatian country and eventually reached Budinian territory.

[123] The Persians’ passage through Scythian and Sauromatian lands had provided them with no opportunities to damage anything, because the land was bare. When they came to Budinian territory, however, they found the wooden-walled town, which had been abandoned and evacuated by the Budinians, and they set fire to it. Then they continued along the trail of the retreating Scythians, until they left Budinian land behind them and reached uninhabited territory. This seven-day stretch of empty land, completely uninhabited by human beings, lies to the north of Budinian territory, and beyond it live the Thyssagetae. Four sizeable rivers (called the Lycus, Oärus, Tanaïs, and Syrgis) rise in their country and flow through the land of the Maeetians until they issue into Lake Maeetis.

[124] When Darius came to this empty region, he stopped chasing the Scythians and had his men pitch camp on the banks of the Oärus. Then he built eight large forts spaced at equal intervals about sixty stades apart from one another, which have survived, though as ruins, right up to my day. While he was busy with these projects, the Scythians he had been pursuing circled back to Scythia by a northern route. They disappeared completely, but Darius believed that they were escaping west back to Scythia, because he was sure that they were all the Scythians there were, and so when he had no further sightings of them, he left his forts half finished and he too turned west.

[125] After a forced march he arrived back in Scythia and met up with the combined force of the other two Scythian detachments, who then proceeded to keep a day’s journey in front of him. Because he did not give up his pursuit, the Scythians retreated, in accordance with their plan, into the territory of those who had refused them military support, starting with the Black Cloaks. The arrival of the Scythians and the Persians in their country threw the Black Cloaks into confusion, and then the Scythians led the Persians into the Cannibals’ country, creating turmoil there too, and then on to Neurian territory, and finally towards the Agathyrsians. Everywhere they went, they left chaos and confusion in their wake. The Agathyrsians, however, had seen how their neighbours had been forced into flight and thrown into disarray by the Scythians, so before the Scythians reached them they sent them a herald. Through the herald they told the Scythians not to set foot over their borders, and warned them that if they tried to invade they would have to fight them first. Having issued this warning, the Agathyrsians set out to defend their borders, with the intention of repelling the invaders. (The Black Cloaks, Cannibals, and Neurians, however, had not offered any resistance to the joint invasion of the Persians and Scythians; they forgot their earlier threats and fled in disarray ever further northwards into the uninhabited region.) In the face of the Agathyrsians’ stand, the Scythians stopped trying to enter their territory, and led the Persians out of Neurian territory and back to Scythia.

[126] The whole business was dragging on endlessly, so Darius sent a rider to King Idanthyrsus of Scythia and said: ‘What is this extraordinary behaviour? Why do you keep on running away, when you could do something different? For instance, if you think you have the ability to resist my power, then stop this aimless wandering, stay in one place and fight. But if you recognize that you are weaker than me, you can still stop running: come and discuss terms with me instead, acknowledging me as your master with gifts of earth and water.’

[127] Idanthyrsus, king of the Scythians, replied as follows: ‘Persian, this is how things stand with me: I have never fled from any man in fear—I never have in the past and that is not what is happening now. What I am doing now is not far removed from my usual way of life during peacetime. I’m not going to fight you, and I’ll tell you why. If we had towns we might worry about the possibility of them being captured, and if we had farmland we might worry about it being laid to waste, and then we might engage you in battle quite quickly; but we don’t have either. If you feel you have to get to fighting soon, there are our ancestral burial grounds. Go on, find them and try to ruin them, and then you’ll see whether or not we will fight. But until then, unless it seems like a good idea, we won’t join battle with you. I have no more to say on the subject of fighting. As for my masters, the only ones I recognize are Zeus, who is my ancestor, and Hestia, the queen of the Scythians. You won’t be getting gifts of earth and water from me, but only what you deserve; as for this “master” business, you’ll suffer for it.’

[128] So his messenger went to deliver this message to Darius. The mention of slavery made the Scythian kings furious. They sent the joint Scythian-Sauromatian division (the one commanded by Scopasis) to the Ionians—the ones who were guarding the bridge over the Ister—with instructions to hold discussions with them, and meanwhile those of them who were to stay in Scythia decided to stop leading the Persians all over the place, but to attack them whenever they were foraging for food. So they used to watch for when Darius’ men were gathering supplies of food and carry out their scheme. The Scythian horsemen would always rout the enemy cavalry, and the Persian horsemen would retreat until they met up with their infantry, who would come to their assistance. At this point the Scythians used to turn back, because they were afraid of the Persian infantry, despite the fact that they had hurled themselves at the Persian cavalry. Even at night, the Scythians kept up this kind of assault.

[129] There was something I should mention—something quite remarkable—which helped the Persians and hindered the Scythians during their attacks on Darius’ positions. This was the sound of the donkeys and the sight of the mules. As I explained earlier, Scythia produces no donkeys or mules; in the whole country there is not a single donkey or mule, because it is too cold. So the donkeys’ braying threw the Scythian cavalry into confusion. Often the Scythians would be in the middle of charging at the Persians when their horses would hear the donkeys braying and would turn back in disarray, with their ears pricked in astonishment at the sounds they were hearing and sights they were seeing for the first time. So this was something that gave the Persians a slight military advantage.

[130] When the Scythians realized that they had the Persians worried, they came up with a way of prolonging their stay in Scythia, which would mean that eventually they would get into serious difficulties as a result of shortage of supplies. What they used to do was leave some of their livestock behind (and the herdsmen too), while they themselves rode off elsewhere. The Persians would come and take the animals, and the incident would boost their morale.

[131] After this had happened a number of times, things were starting to go very badly for Darius. The Scythian kings realized this and sent a herald with gifts for him—a bird, a mouse, a frog, and five arrows. The Persians asked the man who had brought the gifts what the kings meant by them, but he said that all he was supposed to do was hand over the gifts and leave straight away—he had received no further instructions. However, he told the Persians that if they were clever they would work out what the gifts meant. So the Persians talked the matter over among themselves.

[132] Darius’ opinion was that the Scythians were giving him earth and water and tokens of their surrender. His reasoning was as follows: a mouse is born in the ground and eats the same food as human beings, a frog lives in water, a bird closely resembles a horse, and they gave arrows as symbols of their own military might. This was the view that Darius expressed, but Gobryas (who was one of the seven who had overthrown the Magus) challenged this view of Darius’ and came up with an alternative. This is how he explained the message of the gifts: ‘Listen, men of Persia: if you don’t become birds and fly up into the sky, or mice and burrow into the ground, or frogs and jump into the lakes, you’ll never return home, because you’ll be shot down by these arrows.’

[133] So the Persians were trying to work out what the gifts meant. Meanwhile, the first Scythian division—the one which had been detailed originally to retreat† past Lake Maeetis, but subsequently to talk with the Ionians on the Ister—reached the bridge. Once they were there, they said, ‘Men of Ionia, the gift we have come to bring you is freedom from slavery, if you are prepared to do as we suggest. Our information is that your orders from Darius were to guard the bridge only for sixty days, after which, if he still hadn’t appeared, you were to go back home. All you have to do, then, to avoid his censure, is wait the prescribed number of days and then leave; if you do that, we won’t blame you either.’ Having gained the Ionians’ promise to do as they suggested, the Scythians lost no time in returning to their country.

[134] Once Darius had the gifts, the Scythians who had stayed in Scythia drew up their infantry and cavalry and prepared to attack the Persians. They were ready and waiting in their ranks when a hare ran across the open space between the two sides, and one after another all the Scythians spotted it and gave chase. Seeing the Scythians in disarray and hearing their cries, Darius asked why his opponents were in such a state of commotion. When he heard that they were chasing a hare, he told his confidants, ‘These Scythians certainly hold us in contempt. I now think that Gobryas’ interpretation of their gifts was right, and what we need is a good plan for getting safely back home.’

‘My lord,’ Gobryas replied, ‘I had a pretty fair idea of how hard it would be to get at the Scythians just from hearing about them, but since we’ve been here I have come to know a lot more, through watching them toy with us. So I now think we should light our camp-fires at nightfall, as we usually do, tether all our donkeys—and then deceive those of our troops who are least able to endure hardship and slip away. Otherwise it will be too late: either the Scythians will head straight for the Ister and destroy the bridge, or the Ionians will decide on a course of action which will finish us off.’

[135] That was Gobryas’ proposal, and after nightfall Darius acted on it. He tethered all the donkeys and left behind in the camp those of his men who were sick and those whose loss would have the least impact. He left the donkeys because he wanted them to bray, and he left the weaker elements among his troops because of their weakness, but the reason he actually gave them was that he and the unimpaired elements of his army were going to launch an attack against the Scythians, and that in the mean time they were to guard the camp. This was the explanation Darius gave the men he was leaving behind, and then he lit the fires and raced away as quickly as possible towards the Ister. As for the donkeys, on finding themselves abandoned by the bulk of the army they brayed far more than normal, and when the Scythians heard them they were convinced that the Persians were where they expected them to be.

[136] At daybreak those who had been left behind realized that they had been betrayed by Darius, so they threw themselves on the Scythians’ mercy and explained the situation. When the Scythians heard what they had to say, they lost no time in combining into a single force not only the two detachments which were already there, but also the one which was reinforced by the Sauromatae, and the Budinians and the Gelonians as well; then they immediately set out for the Ister after the Persians. Now, the Persian army consisted mainly of foot-soldiers and did not know the way, since there were no ready-made roads, whereas the Scythians were on horseback and knew the shortest routes. Consequently the Scythians reached the bridge long before the Persians. The two armies had missed each other on the way, and when the Scythians realized that the Persians had not yet arrived, they addressed the Ionians (who were on board their ships) as follows: ‘Your sixty days are up, Ionians, so it’s wrong of you to be here still. Previously it was fear that kept you here, but if you dismantle the bridge now, you can leave straight away without any worries, with the gods and the Scythians to thank for your freedom. As for your former master, we will inflict such a defeat on him that he will never again make war on anyone.’

[137] In response, the Ionian leaders talked things over among themselves. Miltiades of Athens, the tyrant of the Hellespontine Chersonese, who was one of the military commanders, was of the opinion that they should do as the Scythians were suggesting and free Ionia from Persian rule. Histiaeus of Miletus, however, took the opposite line; he argued that every one of them owed his position as tyrant of his community to Darius, and that if Darius were to fall, he would not be able to rule Miletus and none of them would remain in power either, because there was not one of their communities which would not prefer democracy to tyranny. Histiaeus’ argument immediately won everyone at the meeting over to his point of view, although they had previously been in favour of Miltiades’ proposal.

[138] All the people who voted at this meeting were highly valued by the Persian king. Present at the meeting were the Hellespontine tyrants Daphnis of Abydus, Hippoclus of Lampsacus, Herophantus of Parium, Metrodorus of Proconnesus, Aristagoras of Cyzicus, and Ariston of Byzantium. As well as these Hellespontine tyrants, there were also some from Ionia: Strattis of Chios, Aeaces of Samos, Laodamas of Phocaea, and Histiaeus of Miletus, who came up with the counter-proposal to Miltiades’. The only noteworthy Aeolian present was Aristagoras of Cyme.

[139] So they voted in favour of Histiaeus’ proposal, and also decided to make their actions match their words by dismantling as much of the Scythian side of the bridge as could be reached by an arrow shot from the bank. They did this in order to give the Scythians the impression that they were helping when they were in fact not helping one bit, and also to forestall any attempt on the part of the Scythians to force their way across the bridge. They also decided to tell the Scythians, while they were dismantling the Scythian side of the bridge, that they would go on to do everything that the Scythians wanted them to do. So in addition to approving Histiaeus’ proposal, they also made these plans. Then they chose Histiaeus to act as their representative and respond to the Scythians’ suggestion. ‘Men of Scythia,’ he said, ‘you have come here with valuable information, and thanks to your speed you have arrived just in time. Your suggestions are progressing well in our hands; we are serving you properly. As you can see, we are dismantling the bridge, and our desire for freedom will ensure our continued commitment to your cause. But while we are dismantling the bridge, you should seize the opportunity to track down the Persians and, for our sakes as well as yours, make them pay the penalty they deserve.’

[140] The Scythians once again believed that the Ionians were telling the truth. They turned back inland and began to look for the Persians, but they completely failed to find any traces of their route. Actually, it was the Scythians’ own destruction of grassland on which horses might have fed, and their filling in of pools, which was responsible for this lack of success. If they had not done this, tracking down the Persians whenever they wanted would have been straightforward. In fact, however, this apparently good idea was the cause of their failure. The route the Scythians followed in their hunt for the enemy took them through a part of Scythia where there were still pools to be found, and fodder for the horses as well, because they assumed that the Persians too would retreat along a route with these resources. But the Persians kept to the course they had used before. This did not make their journey easy, but they did at last reach the bridge—only to arrive at night and find the bridge dismantled, which made them absolutely terrified in case the Ionians had deserted them.

[141] However, one of Darius’ men was an Egyptian who had the loudest voice in the world. On Darius’ orders, he stood at the edge of the Ister and shouted out for Histiaeus of Miletus. Histiaeus heard him the first time he called, and, as well as rebuilding the bridge, he got the whole fleet to start ferrying the army over the river.

[142] This is how the Persians managed to escape, and how the Scythians failed once again to locate the Persian army. The Scythian opinion of Ionians is that they make the worst and most cowardly free people in the world, but that if they were to think of them as slaves, they would have to say that no master could hope to find more loyal and submissive captives. That is the kind of insult Scythians have hurled at Ionians.

[143] Darius next marched through Thrace and came to Sestus on the Chersonese, where he took ship for Asia, leaving a Persian called Megabazus in command of his troops in Europe. Something Darius once said in front of some other Persians was hugely complimentary to Megabazus. He was about to eat some pomegranates, and he had just opened the first of them when his brother Artabanus asked him what he would like to have as many of as there are seeds in a pomegranate. Darius replied that he would rather have that many men like Megabazus than be master of Greece. That was the compliment he paid him in front of some Persians once, and at the time in question he left him in command of his army of eighty thousand men.

[144] Something Megabazus said has never been forgotten by the people of the Hellespont, and it never will. He happened to be in Byzantium and he found out that settlers had arrived in Chalcedon seventeen years before the Byzantine settlers had come. ‘In that case,’ he said, ‘the Chalcedonians must have been blind for all that time, because otherwise they wouldn’t have chosen to settle in a worse place when a more attractive one was available.’ Anyway, Megabazus was left behind on the Hellespont on the occasion in question, and he set about subjugating any settlements which were not collaborating with the Persians.

[145] While Megabazus was engaged in this, another huge military expedition took place, this time against Libya. I will explain the reason for this expedition later, but first there are other matters to go through. After the descendants of the Argonauts were driven out of Lemnos by a force of Pelasgians—the same Pelasgians who had abducted the Athenian women from Brauron—they sailed from Lemnos to Lacedaemon, where they established themselves on Mount Taygetus and lit a fire. The Lacedaemonian response to their arrival was to send a messenger to find out who they were and where they were from. In answer to the messenger’s questions they told him that they were Minyans and were descended from the heroes who had sailed on the Argo, who had put in at Lemnos and founded their line. The Lacedaemonians listened to the report about the family history of the Minyans and then sent another messenger, this time to ask what the reason was for their visit to Lacedaemon and why they had lit a fire. They said that they had come because they had been expelled by the Pelasgians and so had turned to the land of their fathers; they said that it was only fair for them to do so, and that they wanted to live there with them, sharing their rights and privileges and having land allocated to them. The Lacedaemonians, influenced especially by the fact that the Tyndaridae had sailed on the Argo, were pleased to accept the Minyans on their chosen terms. So they took the Minyans in, gave them some land, and divided them up into tribes. The Minyans immediately set about marrying local women and arranging marriages between Lacedaemonians and the women they had brought from Lemnos.

[146] Only a short while later, however, the Minyans started to behave aggressively, demanding a share in the kingship and doing wrong in various other ways as well. The Lacedaemonians decided to kill them, so they arrested them and threw them into prison. Now, when the Lacedaemonians carry out an execution, they do so at night, never during the daytime. Just when they were due to kill them, then, the wives of the Minyans, who were local women, the daughters of eminent Spartiates, asked permission to enter the prison and talk to their husbands in private. The Lacedaemonians let them in, never suspecting them of any underhand behaviour. But when they were inside the prison, they swapped clothes with their husbands. So the Minyans walked out of prison dressed in women’s clothing, and were taken to be women. After escaping in this way they re-established their base on Mount Taygetus.

[147] Now, it so happened that at the same time as all this was going on preparations were being made for a colonizing expedition from Lacedaemon, under the leadership of Theras the son of Autesion (whose own father was Tisamenus the son of Thersander and grandson of Polynices). Despite being a Cadmean by descent, Theras had once been the regent of Sparta, since he was the maternal uncle of Eurysthenes and Procles, the sons of Aristodamus, and had ruled while they were still under age. When his nephews grew up and took over the kingdom, the fact that Theras had tasted power made him resent being ruled by others, so he said that he would not stay in Lacedaemon, but would return to his relatives on the island which is now called Thera, but which was previously known as Calliste and was inhabited by descendants of a Phoenician called Membliaraus the son of Poeciles. What happened was that Cadmus the son of Agenor put in at the island which is nowadays known as Thera during his search for Europa, and for some reason—perhaps because he liked the place—he decided to leave a party of Phoenicians on the island, including Membliaraus, one of his own kinsmen. These Phoenicians had been living on Calliste for eight generations when Theras went there from Lacedaemon.

[148] So these were the people to whom Theras was preparing to travel, along with a body of emigrants drawn from the Lacedaemonian tribes, with the intention of claiming kinship with them and sharing the island with them, not of dispossessing them. When the Minyans broke out of prison and established a base on Mount Taygetus, and the Lacedaemonians made up their minds to kill them, Theras interceded, in order to avoid bloodshed, and promised to take them with him out of the country. The Lacedaemonians agreed to his plan, and he took three triaconters and sailed away to the descendants of Membliaraus. He only took a few Minyans with him, however, not the whole lot, because most of them made their way to the Paroreatae and the Caucones and drove them out of their territories. Then they divided themselves into six groups and founded the following towns there: Lepreum, Macistus, Phrixae, Pyrgus, Epium, and Nudium. In my day, most of these towns were sacked by the Eleans. Meanwhile, Calliste was named Thera after the leader of this band of emigrants.

[149] Theras’ son, however, refused to accompany his father, and so Theras said that he would leave him ‘as a sheep among wolves’. As a result of this quip, the young man was nicknamed Oeolycus, and somehow he became stuck with this name rather than his original one. Oeolycus was the father of Aegeus, who gave his name to the Aegeidae, an important clan in Sparta. Children born to the men of this clan were always dying young, so on the advice of an oracle they built a sanctuary dedicated to the Avenging Spirits of Laius and Oedipus, and after this they survived. The same thing also happened on Thera to the descendants of those who had built the original sanctuary.†

[150] So far, the Lacedaemonian and the Theran accounts agree, but for subsequent events we have to rely on the Therans alone. This is what they say happened. Grinnus the son of Aesanius, who was a descendant of Theras and king of the island of Thera, arrived in Delphi with a hecatomb. He was accompanied by a number of ordinary citizens, including a descendant of one of the Minyans called Euphemus, whose name was Battus the son of Polymnestus. King Grinnus of Thera was consulting the oracle on other matters when the oracle declared that he would found a community in Libya. ‘Lord,’ he replied, ‘I am already too old and weighed down to take off like that. Please give the job to one of these younger men here.’ As he was saying this, he waved in the direction of Battus. That was all that happened then, and later, after their return home, they took no account of the oracle. They did not know where Libya was, and they were not so foolhardy as to send a colonizing expedition off to some unknown destination.

[151] For the next seven years, however, no rain fell on Thera, and all their trees, with a single exception, withered. The islanders consulted the oracle, and the Pythia reminded them that they were supposed to colonize Libya. Since they could not find a cure for their troubles, they sent messengers to Crete to find out if any of their countrymen or resident aliens had ever gone to Libya. These agents of theirs went from place to place on Crete and eventually visited a town called Itanus too, where they met a man called Corobius, who made a living from collecting murexes, and he told them that he had once been driven off course by winds and had ended up on the Libyan island of Platea. They paid him to come back with them to Thera, and an initial small reconnoitring party set out from Thera. With Corobius’ guidance they found the island he had mentioned, Platea, and they left him there with enough supplies to last him a certain number of months, while they themselves sailed back to Thera as quickly as possible to tell the Therans about the island.

[152] However, they were away longer than they had agreed with Corobius, and he completely ran out of food. But then a Samian ship, captained by Colaeus, was blown off course on its way to Egypt and fetched up at Platea. Corobius told the Samians the whole story and they left him enough food for a year. Then they put to sea from the island with the intention of sailing to Egypt, but they were again driven off course by an adverse east wind. The wind was relentless and drove them through the Pillars of Heracles until, providentially, they reached Tartessus. This trading-centre was virgin territory at the time, and consequently they came home with the biggest profit any Greek trader we have reliable information about has ever made from his cargo—apart from Sostratus of Aegina, the son of Laodamas, of course. No one can rival him, but the Samians withdrew six talents—a tenth of their profit—and commissioned a bronze vessel, in the style of an Argive bowl. There were protruding griffin heads around it; they dedicated the bowl in the temple of Hera, and supported it on a group of three kneeling bronze figures, each seven cubits high. Anyway, the help the Samians gave Corobius proved to be the start of a strong bond of friendship between them and the Cyreneans and Therans.

[153] After they had left Corobius on the island, the reconnoitring party of Therans returned to Thera and announced that they had founded a settlement on an island off Libya. The Therans resolved to send one in every two brothers (which one went was to be decided by lot), to draw the men who went from every one of their seven districts, and to send Battus as the expedition leader and king of the future colony. And so they sent two penteconters to Platea.

[154] That is the Theran version of events. Now, although the Cyrenean and Theran versions are in agreement about subsequent events, they are quite different where Battus is concerned. What the Cyreneans say about Battus is as follows. There once was a man called Etearchus, who was the king of the Cretan town Oäxus. Etearchus had a daughter called Phronime, but her mother had died, so he married another woman to look after her. She came along and took it upon herself to be a true stepmother to Phronime, by making her life a misery and constantly intriguing against her. Eventually she accused her of promiscuity and convinced her husband that she was telling the truth. Since he believed his wife, he came up with a wicked plan for his daughter. He befriended a Theran trader called Themison, who lived in Oäxus, and made him swear that he would perform any service he asked him. Themison swore that he would, and then Etearchus took him to his daughter. He handed her over to Themison and told him to take her out to sea and drown her. Themison was so furious about being tricked into swearing an oath that he broke off his guest-friendship with Etearchus. He did take the girl and sail off, but when he was out in the open sea, he fulfilled his oath to Etearchus by tying ropes around the girl and lowering her into the water, but then he pulled her back on board and sailed to Thera.

[155] On Thera, an eminent Theran called Polymnestus acquired Phronime and kept her as his concubine. After a while she gave birth to a son who had a speech impediment and a lisp, and so he was given the name Battus, the stammerer. At any rate, that is what both the Therans and the Cyreneans say, but I think he was originally called something else and then changed his name to Battus when he came to Libya. He would have been led to do so, first, because of the oracle he received in Delphi, and, second, because of the prestige he got by taking on the name. The Libyans call a king battos, and that, I think, is why in her prediction the Pythia called him by that name: she was using the Libyan word, because she knew that he was going to be a king in Libya. When he became a man he went to Delphi to ask what could be done about his speech. However, the response he got to his question from the Pythia was as follows:

Battus, you came for a voice, but the Lord Phoebus Apollo has a mission for you:
You are to go to sheep-breeding Libya and found a colony there.

This is as if she had said, in Greek: ‘King, you came for a voice.’ Anyway, he replied, ‘Lord, I came to consult you about my speech, but in response you are telling me to colonize Libya, which is an impossible task. Where are my resources? Where are my men?’ However, this plea of his did not win a different response. He left the Pythia while she was repeating the same prediction as before, and returned to Thera.

[156] Later, things started to go badly for him personally and for Thera in general. The Therans were unaware of the reason for this, so they sent emissaries to Delphi to ask about the problems that were afflicting them. The Pythia replied that things would improve for them if they helped Battus found Cyrene in Libya. They subsequently fitted Battus out with two penteconters and sent him off. The explorers sailed to Libya, but they did not know what else to do, so they left and returned to Thera. The Therans refused to let them land, however; they shot at them every time their boats got close to shore and told them to sail back to Libya. Since they had no choice in the matter, they returned and founded a settlement on an island off Libya; the name of the island, as already stated, was Platea. The island is said to be the same size as the city of Cyrene is nowadays.

[157] They lived on this island for two years, but nothing went right for them, so they left one of their number there and all the rest of them sailed away to Delphi. When they got there, they said that they had been living in Libya and things still had not improved for them, and asked for the oracle’s advice. The Pythia replied as follows:

I am most impressed with your knowledge, if you know sheep-breeding Libya
Better than I, when you have not been there and I have.

So Battus and his men sailed back again, because Apollo was not going to release them from founding a colony until they reached Libya itself. They got back to the island, picked up the man they had left behind, and founded a settlement actually in Libya itself, directly opposite the island in a place called Aziris, which is skirted by beautiful valleys, and has a river flowing past it.

[158] They lived in Aziris for six years, but in the seventh year some Libyans pretended† that there was a better place they could take them to and persuaded them to leave. Having got them to move, the Libyans led them west of Aziris, and carefully arranged the timing of the journey so that it would be night-time when they took the Greeks through a particularly beautiful spot—a place called Irasa—and too dark for the Greeks to see it as they passed. They brought them to the place called Apollo’s Spring and said, ‘This is a good place for you Greeks to live, because a hole has been made in the sky here.’

[159] Battus, the founder of the colony, ruled for forty years, and his son Arcesilaus for sixteen years. In their lifetimes the Cyrenean population remained at pretty much the level it had been when they first set out to colonize Libya. During the reign of their third king, however, who was called Battus the Prosperous, the Cyreneans invited settlers to come and share their land, so the Pythia urged all the Greek states to sail and help the Cyreneans in their project of colonizing Libya. The declaration the Pythia made was as follows:

There is land on offer in lovely Libya;
Anyone who arrives too late will surely regret it.

Soon a considerable mass of people gathered in Cyrene and took over plots of the surrounding land. The local Libyans and their king, whose name was Adicran, resented being robbed of their land and pushed around by the settlers; a message was sent to Egypt and the Libyans put themselves under the protection of the Egyptian king Apries. He mobilized a huge army of his men and sent it to assault Cyrene. However, the Cyreneans came out to meet them at Irasa; battle was joined near a spring called Thestes, and the Cyreneans were victorious. The Egyptians, who had never come across Greeks before, underestimated them and were so thoroughly annihilated that hardly any of them found their way back to Egypt. Looking for someone to blame for this disaster, the Egyptians added it to their list of grievances against Apries and rose up against him.

[160] Battus was succeeded by his son, Arcesilaus; the first thing Arcesilaus did on becoming king was fall out with his brothers. Eventually they left and went to another part of Libya where they founded, from their own resources, a city called Barca (that was its name then, and still is now). While they were still in the process of settling there, they persuaded the Libyans to rebel against the Cyreneans. Later, then, Arcesilaus launched a strike against these Libyans, who had taken his brothers in and then revolted. The Libyans fled in fear to the eastern Libyans, but Arcesilaus followed them all the way to Leucon, where the Libyans decided to attack him. Battle was joined and the Libyans thoroughly defeated the Cyrenean forces, who lost seven thousand hoplites. After this catastrophe, Arcesilaus was strangled by his brother Learchus when he was indisposed by sickness and the medicines he had taken. But Arcesilaus’ wife, whose name was Eryxo, then set a trap for Learchus and killed him.

[161] The kingdom passed to Arcesilaus’ son Battus, who had a club-foot which made him lame. In view of the disaster that had overwhelmed them, the Cyreneans sent emissaries to Delphi to ask what kind of government they should establish to guarantee their future welfare, and the Pythia told them to bring in an arbitrator from Mantinea in Arcadia. The Cyreneans approached the Mantineans, and the Mantineans sent their leading citizen, a man called Demonax. Demonax came to Cyrene and, after a detailed examination, the first thing he did was divide them into three tribes, along the following lines: he made one division consist of the Therans and the local Libyan population, another of the Peloponnesians and Cretans, and the third of everyone from the Aegean islands. In the second place, he reserved certain priesthoods and sacred precincts for Battus as king, but gave the general populace all the other rights and possessions which had previously belonged to the king.

[162] This constitution lasted throughout Battus’ reign, but in the time of his son Arcesilaus the issue of the king’s prerogatives proved very troublesome. What happened was that Arcesilaus (who was the son of Battus the Lame and Pheretime) refused to accept Demonax of Mantinea’s arrangements and demanded the return of his hereditary privileges. There was civil strife, but Arcesilaus came off worst and fled to Samos, while his mother fled to Salamis in Cyprus. Now, the ruler of Salamis at this time was Euelthon (the man who dedicated the remarkable censer in Delphi, which can be found in the Corinthian treasury). So Pheretime went to Euelthon and asked him to supply her with an army, to restore her and her son to Cyrene. Euelthon proceeded to give her everything—except an army. She accepted his presents and said that they were all very well, but it would be even better for him to give her the army she was asking for. Every time he gave her something, this is what she said, until in the end Euelthon presented her with a golden spindle and distaff, and gave her some wool as well. When Pheretime gave her usual response to the gifts, Euelthon replied that these were the kinds of things he would give a woman, but he would never give a woman an army.

[163] Meanwhile in Samos Arcesilaus was collecting all the men he could by the promise of land redistribution. Once he had a sizeable army in the making, he set out for Delphi to consult the oracle about his return to Cyrene. The Pythia replied as follows: ‘Loxias grants the kingship of Cyrene to your dynasty for eight generations—for four kings called Battus and four kings called Arcesilaus. But he advises you not to try to extend that period. As for you, once you have returned to Cyrene, keep quiet. If you find a kiln full of amphoras, don’t fire the amphoras, but send them off with a fair wind; if you do fire the oven, don’t enter anywhere that is surrounded by water. If you disregard this warning, you will die, along with the best-looking bull.’

[164] This was the Pythia’s prediction to Arcesilaus. Taking along the men he had gathered in Samos, he returned to Cyrene, where he regained control of affairs. But then he forgot the oracle, and insisted that his opponents pay for forcing him into exile. Some of them fled clean out of the country. Others were captured by Arcesilaus and shipped off to Cyprus for execution, but were blown off course to Cnidos, where the inhabitants rescued them and shipped them to Thera instead. Still others, however, took refuge in a tall tower owned by Aglomachus—but Arcesilaus heaped wood around the building and burnt it to the ground. Afterwards, when it was all over, he realized that this was what the Pythia had been referring to when she had forbidden him in her prophecy to fire any amphoras he might find in an oven. From then on he took care to stay out of Cyrene, because he thought that it might count as ‘surrounded by water’ and he was worried about dying as predicted. His wife (who was also related to him) was the daughter of the king of the Barcaeans, whose name was Alazeir. Arcesilaus went and stayed with Alazeir, then, but some Barcaeans, along with some of the exiles from Cyrene, saw him out and about in the streets of the town and killed him. They also killed his father-in-law Alazeir. Whether or not he did so intentionally, then, Arcesilaus fulfilled his destiny by missing the point of the oracle.

[165] While Arcesilaus was living in Barca, having already encompassed his own downfall, his mother Pheretime took over and enjoyed all her son’s duties and privileges in Cyrene, including his seat in the Council. When news reached her of her son’s death in Barca, she fled to Egypt, because Arcesilaus had served Cambyses the son of Cyrus well—it was he who had surrendered Cyrene to Cambyses and had undertaken to pay tribute. When Pheretime reached Egypt she threw herself on the mercy of Aryandes and asked him to help her, claiming that her son had been killed because he was pro-Persian.

[166] Aryandes was the man Cambyses had made governor of Egypt. Later, he was to be executed for trying to claim equal status with Darius. What happened was that he realized—it was obvious—that Darius wanted to leave as a memorial to future generations something which no other king had achieved, and he proceeded to do likewise, until he received his reward for doing so. Darius had refined gold until it was as pure as it possibly could be and then struck coinage with it; when Aryandes was in charge of Egypt he did the same with silver. In fact, Aryandic silver is the purest silver even today. When Darius found out what Aryandes was doing, he brought a different charge, that of sedition, against him, and had him executed.

[167] Anyway, at the time in question, Aryandes was sympathetic to Pheretime’s pleas and put all the Egyptian armed forces—both the land army and the navy—at her disposal. He made a Maraphian called Amasis commander of the land army, and he put Badres from the tribe of the Pasagardae in charge of the navy. Before sending the army off to war, however, he dispatched a herald to Barca to find out who it was who had killed Arcesilaus. The Barcaeans unanimously claimed responsibility, and said that they had killed him because they had suffered terribly at his hands. When Aryandes heard this, he sent his men off straight away, and Pheretime went with them. This charge was the pretext for the expedition, but I think that the real reason was to conquer Libya. After all, a great many different tribes lived in Libya, and hardly any of them were subjects of the Persian king; in fact most of them were not concerned in the slightest about Darius.

[168] Here is how the Libyans live. Starting from Egypt, the first Libyans are the Adyrmachidae, whose way of life is basically Egyptian, except that they wear the same kinds of clothes as are worn everywhere else in Libya. Their women wear a bronze band around each of their ankles and have long hair. When a woman of this tribe finds a louse on her body, she cracks it with her teeth and then throws it away. They are the only Libyan tribe to do this. Another unique custom of theirs is that when their young women are about to get married they parade them in front of their king, and whichever one of them pleases him the most is deflowerd by him. Adyrmachidan territory runs from Egypt up to a bay called Plynus.

[169] The next tribe are the Giligamae, whose territory extends west as far as an island called Aphrodisias. Platea (the island where the Cyreneans settled) lies about half-way along the stretch of coastline occupied by this tribe, and on the mainland is a bay called Menelaus, and also Aziris, where the Cyreneans lived. Silphium starts growing here; it grows from Platea to the mouth of the Gulf of Syrtis. Their way of life is not markedly different from that of other Libyan tribes.

[170] The next tribe to the west after the Giligamae are the Asbystae, whose territory lies inland from Cyrene and does not come down to the sea, because the coastal region is Cyrenean territory. No Libyan tribe relies on four-horse chariots more than them. By and large, they try to imitate the Cyreneans.

[171] The next tribe to the west after the Asbystae are the Auschisae, whose territory lies inland from Barca, and comes down to the sea at Euesperides. In the middle of their territory live the Bacales, a tribe with a small population, whose land comes down to the sea at Taucheira, a town in Barcaean country. The Auschisae have the same way of life as those who live inland from Cyrene.

[172] The next tribe to the west after the Auschisae are the Nasamones, a populous tribe. In the summer they leave their livestock by the sea and travel inland to a place called Augila to pick dates from the palm-trees. There are a great many flourishing palm-trees there, and they are all the fruit-bearing kind. They catch locusts, dry them in the sun, grind them up, and then sprinkle the powder on to milk and drink it. It is their custom for each man to have a number of wives, but as in the case of the Massagetae any woman is available to any man for sex; a staff set up in front of a house indicates that sexual intercourse is taking place inside. When a Nasamonian man gets married, first it is the custom for the bride to have sex with all the guests one after another on her wedding night; every man she has sex with gives her something he has brought with him from his house as a gift. When they want to swear an oath they place their hands on the tombs of the men who are said to be most moral and brave men from the tribe’s past and swear by these men. And their divinatory practice is to go to the graves of their ancestors and sleep there, after saying prayers; whatever they see in their dreams is taken to be prophetic. When two Nasamones exchange pledges, they each offer the other something to drink out of their hands; if they do not have anything to drink, they get some dust from the ground and lick that.

[173] The neighbours of the Nasamones are the Psyllians—a tribe that met with extinction. This is how it happened. The south wind dried up their water-holes and there was no water to be found anywhere in their territory, which all lay to the east of the Gulf of Syrtis. They deliberated and unanimously decided—I am repeating what the Libyans say—to march against the south wind. When they reached the sandy desert, the south wind blew and buried them. After their extinction, the Nasamones took over their land.

[174] Further inland, to the south of this region, in the part of Libya that is teeming with wild animals, are the Garamantes, who shun all human intercourse and contact. They have no weapons of war and no knowledge of ways to defend themselves.

[175] The Garamantes are the neighbours of the Nasamones inland, while the next tribe west along the coast is the Macae, who wear their hair in the style of a crest; that is, they shave the hair to either side of their heads down to the skin, but leave the middle part to grow long. When they go to war, they carry ostrich-skin shields. The River Cinyps, which rises from the so-called Hill of the Graces, flows through their land and issues into the sea. This Hill of the Graces is thickly wooded, whereas no trees grow in any of the other parts of Libya so far described. The distance from this hill to the sea is two hundred stades.

[176] Next to the Macae are the Gindanes, whose women each wear many leather anklets; it is said that they tie on an anklet for each man they have had sex with. The woman with the largest number of anklets is considered to be the most outstanding, because she has been loved by the largest number of men.

[177] On a headland which juts out into the sea from the territory of the Gindanes live the Lotus-eaters, who exist on a diet of nothing but the fruit of the lotus plant. This fruit is about the size of a mastic berry, and is as sweet as a date. The Lotus-eaters also make wine out of it.

[178] The next tribe along the coast from the Lotus-eaters are the Machlyes, who also make use of the lotus, but not to the extent that the people just mentioned do. Their territory runs all the way to a great river called the Triton, which issues into a large lake called Tritonis. In the lake there is an island called Phla, which, they say, the Lacedaemonians were told by an oracle to colonize.

[179] There is also a story that after the Argo had been built on the coast by Mount Pelium, Jason was sailing round the Peloponnese on his way to Delphi (he had a hecatomb on board, consisting of various objects, including a bronze tripod), and at Cape Malea a north wind arose which carried him off to Libya. Before he had sighted land, he found himself in the shallows of Lake Tritonis. He did not know how to get out of them, but just then—so the story goes—Triton appeared and told Jason to give him the tripod, and then he would show him the channel and send him and his crew on their way safe and sound. Jason obeyed, and Triton showed him the way through the shallows. Then he put the tripod in his own sanctuary. He also made a prediction over the tripod and told it all to Jason and his men. The prediction was that when a descendant of a member of the crew of the Argo carried off the tripod, it was absolutely inevitable that a hundred settlements would be founded around Lake Tritonis. When the local Libyans heard about this prophecy, they hid the tripod.

[180] Next to the Machlyes are the Auseës. They also live around Lake Tritonis, like the Machlyes, but the River Triton forms a boundary between the two tribes. The Machlyes grow their hair long at the back, the Auseës at the front. The Auseës celebrate a festival to Athena once a year at which the unmarried young women of the tribe divide into two groups and fight one another with sticks and stones; the women say that this is how they fulfil their ancestral duties to their native goddess, the one we call Athena. They say that any women who die of their wounds were not true virgins. Before they let them fight, they join together to dress up the prettiest of the current generation of young women at public expense in a Corinthian helmet and a set of Greek armour, mount her on a chariot, and take her around the lake.† I am not in a position to say what they used to dress their young women in originally, before any Greeks came to live near by, but I suspect that it may have been Egyptian armour, since in my opinion the shield and the helmet reached Greece from Egypt. The Auseës claim that Athena is the daughter of Poseidon and Lake Tritonis, but that she got angry for some reason with her father and put herself in Zeus’ hands, and he made her his daughter. That is their story, anyway. They have intercourse with women promiscuously; rather than living in couples, their sex life is like that of herd animals. When a woman’s baby is grown, in the course of the third month the men all convene and the child is taken to be the son or daughter of whichever of the men it resembles.

[181] These tribes of nomads I have been talking about all live in the coastal region of Libya. Further inland is the part of Libya which is infested by wild animals, and then beyond that is a sandy ridge that runs all the way from Thebes in Egypt to the Pillars of Heracles. Along this ridge, at intervals of roughly ten days’ journey, there are hills made out of salt broken up into huge chunks; at the top of each hill, cold, sweet-tasting water wells up from deep inside the salt and makes the place habitable by human beings. No one lives closer to the desert, beyond the part of Libya that is filled with wildlife, than the people who live around these hills. Starting from Thebes, the first tribe is the Ammonians, who live ten days’ journey away from Thebes. They have a sanctuary there that is an offshoot of the sanctuary of Zeus in Thebes; I have already mentioned how the statue of Zeus in Thebes has a ram’s head. There is in fact another spring of water there, which is tepid at dawn, cool by the middle of the morning, and very cold at noon (which is when they use it to water their gardens); as the afternoon progresses, the water gradually gets less cold, until by sunset it has become tepid; it gets warmer and warmer as midnight approaches, by which time it is boiling furiously; then, as the night moves on towards dawn, the water cools down. This spring is called the Spring of the Sun.

[182] Another ten days’ journey further west along the sandy ridge after the Ammonians there is another hill of salt, like the Ammonian one, again with its water. The place is called Augila, and is inhabited. This where the Nasamones come on their date-picking expeditions.

[183] Another ten days’ journey after Augila there is a third hill of salt, with water and a great many fruit-bearing palm-trees, just like the other two places. A very large tribe called the Garamantes live here. They put a layer of soil on top of the salt and so have land to cultivate. This is the place from which the Lotus-eaters are the shortest distance away; it is only a 30-day journey to reach the Lotus-eaters from here. It is also the place where the cows walk backwards as they graze; the reason for this habit is that their horns curve forwards—so much so that if they walk forwards as they graze, the horns stick into the ground in front of them, and so they move backwards. In other respects they are no different from cows anywhere else in the world, except that leather made from their skin is exceptionally thick and durable. The Garamantes use fourhorse chariots to hunt the cave-dwelling Ethiopians, because the cave-dwelling Ethiopians are the fastest people of any of whom we have been brought a report. These cave-dwellers eat reptiles such as snakes and lizards; the language they speak is completely different from any other language, and sounds like bats squeaking.

[184] Another ten days’ journey further on from the Garamantes is another hill and water, again with people living in the vicinity. This is a tribe called the Atarantes, and they are the only people we know of who do not have names. They have a collective name—the Atarantes—but individuals do not have names. The Atarantes curse the sun when it is excessively hot, and also heap all kinds of vile abuse on it, because its blazing heat wears down both them and the land.

The next hill of salt, and spring of water, is another ten days’ journey further on, and also has people living around it. Near by is a narrow, round mountain called Mount Atlas. It is said to be so tall that clouds hide its peaks from sight throughout the year, winter and summer. The local inhabitants (who are called Atlantes after the mountain) say that it is a pillar supporting the sky. The Atlantes, according to my sources, never eat any living thing, and never dream either.

[185] Up to these Atlantes I can give the names of those living on the sandy ridge, but no further. Nevertheless, the ridge runs all the way to the Pillars of Heracles and beyond, and continues to contain salt-mines at intervals of ten days’ journey, each with people living around them. All these tribes have houses made out of lumps of salt, because it never rains in this part of Libya; salt walls could not survive if it rained. The salt that is dug out here is white and purple in colour. Further inland, south of the sandy ridge, the land is sheer desert, without water, wildlife, rain, or vegetation—without the slightest trace of moisture.

[186] All the way from Egypt to Lake Tritonis, then, the Libyans are nomads who eat meat and drink milk, although they never eat cows’ meat (their reason for this is the same as the Egyptians’) and they do not keep pigs. Cyrenean women also refrain from eating cows’ meat because of the Egyptian goddess Isis, but they hold fasts and festivals in her honour. And Barcaean women also abstain from both pigs and cows.

[187] That is the way of things in this part of the world. The nomadic life stops at Lake Tritonis, and west of there the Libyans live quite differently. In particular, there is something the nomadic tribes do to their children which is not done west of the lake. I cannot say for sure that this is what all the nomadic tribes do, but certainly very many of them cauterize the veins on the top of their children’s heads (or, in some cases, the veins at their temples) when they are 4 years old with hot grease extracted from sheeps’ wool. This is to stop them ever in their lives coming to harm from the downflow of phlegm from the head. They attribute their great good health to this practice of theirs—and the Libyans are in fact the healthiest people in the known world. I cannot actually confirm that this practice of theirs is the reason for it, but they are certainly very healthy. If a child goes into convulsions while they are performing the cautery, they have a way of curing him: they sprinkle goat’s urine on him, and that makes him better. I am only repeating what the Libyans themselves say.

[188] The way the nomads perform their sacrifices is as follows. They begin by taking the victim’s ear as first-fruits and throwing it over their home, and then they twist the creature’s neck back. The sun and the moon are the only deities to whom they offer sacrifices, and this form of worship is common to all the Libyan tribes; however, the tribes in the vicinity of Lake Tritonis also offer sacrifices to Athena in particular, but also to Triton and Poseidon.

[189] Now, the Greeks derive the clothing and the aegis of Athena’s statue from the clothes worn by Libyan women. After all, Libyan women’s clothing is identical, apart from being made out of leather and having thongs rather than snakes as the tassels on the edge of their aegises. Besides, the name shows that the costume worn by statues of Athena comes from Libya, because Libyan women wear tasselled goatskins, de-fleeced and dyed with madder, as their outer clothes, and the Greeks have only changed the name aigeai or goatskins to ‘aegis’. I also think that theololuge or cry of praise emitted during the worship of Athena started in Libya, because it is often employed by Libyan women, who do it extremely well. The Greeks also learnt to harness four horses to their chariots from the Libyans.

[190] These nomadic tribes all bury their dead in the same way that the Greeks do, except for the Nasamones, who bury their corpses in a sitting position and take care to sit a dying man up rather than have him lying down when he breathes his last. Their houses, which are portable, are made out of asphodel stalks woven on to a reed framework. So much for the customs of these tribes.

[191] West of the Triton River, next to the Auseës, is a Libyan tribe called the Maxyes who cultivate the land and whose custom it is to have houses. They shave their hair off the left side of their heads, but let it grow long on the right side, and they smear ochre on their bodies. They claim to be descendants of the men of Troy. Their land—and the same goes for this western part of the country as a whole—has far more wildlife and many more trees than the rest of Libya. I mean, the eastern part of Libya, where the nomads live, is flat and sandy; but then the land of the farmers west of the River Triton is very hilly and thickly wooded, and teems with wildlife. There are enormous snakes there, and also lions, elephants, bears, asps, donkeys with horns, dog-headed creatures, headless creatures with eyes in their chests (at least, that is what the Libyans say), wild men and wild women, and a large number of other creatures whose existence is not merely the stuff of fables.

[192] These species are unknown in the territory occupied by the nomads, but there are others there—white-rumped impalas, gazelles, elands, donkeys (not the horned but a non-drinking variety, because they never drink), antelopes which are the size of oxen and whose horns are used to make the sides of lyres, foxes, hyenas, porcupines, wild sheep, fennecs, jackals, panthers, addaxes, three-cubit-long land crocodiles which look very like lizards, ostriches, and tiny one-horned snakes. These animals are peculiar to this part of Libya, but there are also creatures which occur elsewhere in the world (except for deer and wild boar, which are completely absent from Libya). There are three species of mice in this part of Libya. One species is called the two-footed mouse, another is called zegeries in Libyan (which translates into Greek as ‘hill mice’), and the third species is the spiky-haired mouse. There are also weasels living in the silphium, which are very similar to the weasels found in Tartessus. So much for the fauna of the part of Libya where the nomadic tribes live; I have given the fullest possible information that my enquiries could gain me.

[193] The next Libyan tribe after the Maxyes are the Zaueces, whose women drive their chariots when they go to war.

[194] Next to the Zaueces are the Gyzantes. Bees produce a great deal of honey in their country, but even larger quantities are produced of a syrup, which is said to be the local speciality. Anyway, all the people there smear ochre on themselves and eat monkeys, which throng the hills in huge numbers.

[195] According to the Carthaginians, there is an island called Cyrauis off the bit of the coast where the Gyzantes live; they describe the island as being two hundred stades long, but narrow, accessible on foot from the mainland, and full of olive-trees and vines. On the island there is supposed to be a pool where unmarried native women use birds’ feathers smeared with pitch to draw gold-dust up from the mud. I cannot vouch for the truth of this story; I am simply recording what is said. Still, it might all be true, since I have personally seen pitch being brought out of the water to the surface of a pool in Zacynthos. There are quite a number of pools there, the largest of which is seventy feet across in all directions and two fathoms deep. What they do is tie some myrtle on to the end of a pole, let the pole down into the water, and then bring the pitch up to the surface on the myrtle. Zacynthian pitch smells like bitumen, but in other respects it is superior to pitch from Pieria. They pour it into a basin they have hollowed out of the ground near the pool, and when they have collected a lot, they drain it from the basin into amphoras. Anything that falls into this pool travels underground and reappears in the sea, which is four stades away from the pool. So this information about the island off the coast of Libya may come close to the truth.

[196] The Carthaginians also say that there is within Libya a land, with people living there, beyond the Pillars of Heracles. They say that they go there, unload their cargo, and put it in a row along the beach, and then get back on board and make a smoky fire. When the natives see the smoke they come to the sea-shore, put some gold on the ground for the goods, and then pull back away from the goods. At that point the Carthaginians return to shore and have a look, and if they think there is enough gold to pay for the cargo, they take it and leave, whereas if they do not think it is enough, they return to their boats and sit there. The natives then approach and add more gold, until the Carthaginians are satisfied. Neither side cheats the other, the Carthaginians say, for they do not touch the gold until it is equal in value to the cargo, and the natives do not touch the goods until the Carthaginians have taken the gold.

[197] These are all the Libyan tribes I can put a name to. Most of them are not now and were not then concerned in the slightest about the Persian king. On the subject of Libya I can also say that there are four (and, as far as anyone knows, no more than four) nations living in it, two of whom—the Libyans and the Ethiopians, respectively in the north and the south of the continent—are indigenous, whereas the other two, the Phoenicians and the Greeks, are immigrants.

[198] It seems to me that, in general, the soil of Libya is too poor to stand comparison with that of Asia or Europe. The only exception is the part of Libya called Cinyps (which has the same name as its river), which is as good as anywhere in the world in terms of its yield of cereal crops, and is quite different from everywhere else in Libya, because the soil is black and is so well irrigated by springs that there is no need to worry about drought or about torrential downpours (for it does rain in this part of Libya) making it too waterlogged to be any good. On average its crop yield is equal to that of Babylon. The soil in the part of Libya where the Euesperitae live is also good; when it is exceptionally fertile, it can yield a crop of 100 times the weight of the seed grain—but in Cinyps the yield is 300 times the weight of the seed grain.

[199] The land around Cyrene, which is the highest area in the part of Libya that is inhabited by the nomads, has, incredibly, three harvest-times. First the coastal crops ripen and become ready for cutting and gathering; once they have been collected, the crops inland from the coast, in the area known as the hills, become ripe enough to collect; and after this second crop has been harvested, the grain in the highest part of the country ripens and matures. As a result, just when the first crop has been consumed as food and drink, the final crop arrives. In fact, harvesting occupies the people of Cyrene for eight months of the year. Anyway, that is enough on these matters.

[200] The Persians Aryandes had sent from Egypt to avenge Pheretime came to Barca and began to besiege the city. They demanded the surrender of those responsible for the murder of Arcesilaus, but the Barcaeans refused, on the grounds that every single one of them was partly responsible. So the Persian siege of Barca lasted nine months, during which time they tried tunnelling underground up to the wall and launching a series of fierce assaults. A metalworker invented a way to detect the tunnels. He took a bronze shield around the inside of the city wall and kept holding it against the ground; where there was digging going on, the metal of the shield gave off a ringing sound, but everywhere else he laid it there was no sound. The Barcaeans then dug down there to meet the tunnelling Persians and killed them. So the tunnels were detected in this way, and meanwhile the Barcaeans beat off the Persians’ assaults on the city.

[201] For a long time, then, the siege wore on with heavy losses on both sides (the Persians no less than the Barcaeans), until Amasis, the commander of the Persian land army, realized that the city would never fall to brute strength, but that a ruse might succeed, and so came up with the following plan. Under cover of darkness he had a wide trench dug; he laid flimsy planks over the trench, and then he put soil on top of the planks, until it was level with the surrounding ground. At daybreak, he invited the Barcaeans to a meeting—an invitation which they were delighted to accept—and the result of the meeting was that they decided to come to terms with the Persians. The confirmation of the pact involved both sides swearing an oath over the concealed trench; they swore that the oath would stay firm ‘as long as this earth lasts’, and the Barcaeans promised to pay a suitable tribute to the Persian king, while the Persians promised not to do any harm to the Barcaeans from then on. With these solemn promises in place, the Barcaeans trustingly emerged from their city and threw the gates open to let the Persians come inside at will. The Persians broke the hidden planking and ran inside the city. They broke the planking they had made so that they would not be perjuring themselves. They had promised the Barcaeans that the oath would last for as long as the earth stayed as it was at the time—and now that they had broken the planking, the oath became null and void.

[202] The Barcaeans who had played the biggest parts in her son’s death were handed over to Pheretime by the Persians, and she had them impaled at intervals all around the city walls. She also had their wives’ breasts cut off and displayed here and there on the city walls too. She told the Persians to treat the rest of the inhabitants as spoils of war, except for any who were members of the house of Battus and were not implicated in the murder. These Pheretime put in charge of the city.

[203] The Persians reduced the rest of the Barcaeans to slavery and then set off back to Egypt. When they came to Cyrene, the Cyreneans let them pass through the city, as they had been directed to by some oracle. Badres, the commander of the Persian fleet, insisted that the army’s passage through the city was an opportunity for them to capture it, but Amasis refused to let him have his way, on the grounds that the only Greek city they had been sent to attack was Barca. Afterwards, however, once they had passed through the city and were encamped on a knoll sacred to Zeus Lycaeus, they regretted not having taken Cyrene. So they tried to enter the city again, but the Cyreneans would not let them. Although there was no danger of a battle, the Persians were overcome by panic and they beat a hasty retreat to a site about sixty stades from the city, where they pitched camp. While they were there, a message arrived from Aryandes recalling them. The Persians asked the Cyreneans to give them provisions for their journey; their request was granted, and when they had taken possession of the supplies they set out for Egypt. But even after that the Libyans killed any Egyptian strays or stragglers who fell into their hands, for the sake of their clothes and equipment, and went on doing so until the Persians got back to Egypt.

[204] This Persian army penetrated Libya as far as Euesperides. The Barcaeans they had enslaved were taken out of Egypt and sent to King Darius, who gave them a village in Bactria to settle in. They called this village Barca, and it still existed as an inhabited community in Bactria in my day.

[205] Pheretime came to a bad end as well. As soon as she had made the Barcans pay, she left Libya and returned to Egypt, where she died a horrible death. She became infested with a mass of worms while still alive, as if to show people that excessive vengeance earns the gods’ displeasure. So much for Pheretime the daughter of Battus, and so much for the revenge she exacted from the Barcaeans.

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