translated by Shlomo Felberbaum

temple of Apollo, Delphi
photographs by Shane Solow

Text and photographs Copyright © 1999—2003 Lost Trails
all rights reserved

Installment 2

The one then, as he could not get free, was ready; so the other, Candaules, when it seemed to be time for bed, brought Gyges to the room and right afterward his wife too was present. While she entered and was putting off her clothes, Gyges beheld her. But once he had come to be behind the woman as she went to the bed, he slipped out from behind his cover and began to depart. Yet the woman looked upon him as he went out. Although she now had learned what had been done by her husband, she neither let out a cry of shame nor appeared to have learned, since she had in mind to punish Candaules; for among the Lydians and among almost all the rest of the barbarians as well, even for a man to be seen naked leads to great shame.

Then indeed in that way, with no show of anything, she kept quiet, but as soon as day had come, she saw those of the household slaves who were most loyal to her, readied them, and called Gyges. He, thinking she knew nothing of what had been carried out, came at being called, because he was accustomed before, whenever the queen called, to be in attendance. But when Gyges had come, the woman said this: “At present, of two roads open, Gyges, I am offering you a choice of which you prefer to take; either kill Candaules and possess me and the kingdom of the Lydians or you yourself at once as you are must die that in the future you may not be persuaded by Candaules and see everything that you ought not. Well then, either he who thought out the plan must perish or you who beheld me naked and did what’s not lawful.” For a while Gyges marvelled much at what was said, but afterward he begged her not to bind him in a necessity to make that kind of choice. However, he could not persuade her, but he saw necessity was truly lying before him either to kill his master or to be killed himself by others. He chose himself to survive. Then he asked a question in these words: “Since you are making it necessary for me to kill my master unwillingly, come let me hear, in just what manner will we lay hands on him?” And she in reply said, “The onset will be from the same place from which also he put me on display naked and the laying hands on him will be as he sleeps.”

When they had prepared the plot, at nightfall, since Gyges could not be set free nor could there be any means of escape for him, but either he himself had to perish or Candaules, he followed the woman to the bedchamber, and she handed over a dagger and concealed him behind the same door. After that, while Candaules took his rest, he slipped out from behind his cover and killed him and got hold of both the woman and the kingdom, Gyges whom Archilochus the Parian too, who lived at the same time, mentioned in iambic trimeter.

But he kept the kingdom and grew strong because of the oracle in Delphi. For just when the Lydians were considering the suffering of Candaules terrible and were in arms, the faction of Gyges and the remaining Lydians came to an agreement that, if the oracle ordained he should be king of the Lydians, then he should reign, but if it did not, he should return the rule back to the sons of Heracles. Indeed the oracle did make the ordination and thus Gyges became king. However Pythia spoke a brief prophecy that for the sons of Heracles vengeance would be at hand against the fifth descendent from Gyges. This prophecy the Lydians and their kings considered of no account until it was in fact fulfilled.

The tyranny then in that way the Mermnadae took away from the sons of Heracles and held, and Gyges, become tyrant, sent away no few offerings to Delphi, but of all the offerings that are of silver in Delphi, most are his, and besides the silver he dedicated an immense amount of gold of other kinds and, what is most worth mentioning, gold bowls, six in number, are offerings of his. They stand in the treasury of the Corinthians and weigh thirty talents (speaking truly, the treasury is not the Corinthian people's, but Cypselus the son of Eetion’s). This Gyges was the first of the barbarians that we know of to dedicate offerings at Delphi after Mides, the son of Gordias, Phrygia’s king. For indeed Mides too made an offering, the royal throne on which he sat down publicly and judged, which is worth beholding, and this throne is placed right where the bowls of Gyges are. This gold and silver that Gyges dedicated is called Gygadas by the Delphians after its dedicator’s name.

Tholos, Delphi

Now, although he also threw an army, when he had gotten the rule, into Miletus and into Smyrna and took the town of Colophon, nevertheless, since no other great action was done by him, while he was king forty years but two, that man we will let go with so brief a mention, and of Ardys, the son of Gyges, who after Gyges was king, I will make mention. He took the Prienians and made an invasion into Miletus, and during his time as tyrant of Sardis, the Cimmerians, expelled from their abodes by the pastoral Scythians, came to Asia and took Sardis except the acropolis.

Ardys, after he had been king fifty years but one, Sadyattes, the son of Ardys, succeeded and was king twelve years, and Sadyattes Alyattes succeeded. He warred with Cyaxares, the descendant of Deioces, and the Medes, drove out the Cimmerians from Asia, took Smyrna, which had been founded by colonists from Colophon, and made an invasion into Clazomenae.

Now, although from these actions he got free not as he wished, but with great stumbling, yet he showed forth other actions, while he was in power, most worth relating as follows. He warred with the Milesians, because he had inherited the war from his father. For he marched against and besieged Miletus in a manner like this: whenever the grain was ripe in the earth, at that time he set out to throw in the army, and with the army he advanced to the accompaniment of pipes, lutes, and flute, female and male, and, when he came to Milesian land, although the houses in the fields he neither threw down nor set on fire nor tore off their doors, but let them stand in place, yet the trees and the grain in the earth—when he destroyed them, he departed back. For the Milesians were master of the sea so as for there to be no use of a blockade by the army.

The Lydian would not throw down the homes for this reason, that the Milesians, having their quarters there, might be able to sow and work the earth and he for his part, while they worked it, might be able to commit some damage by invading. Doing this, he waged war eleven years, in which two great blows were struck against the Milesians, when they fought in Limeneium in their own land and in Maeander’s plain. Now, six of the eleven years Sadyattes, the son of Ardys, still ruled the Lydians, who at that time kept throwing the army into Milesian land, since he was the one who had joined battle, but the five years following the six, Alyattes, the son of Sadyattes, waged war, who inherited the war from his father, as has previously been made clear by me, and devoted himself vigorously. And to the Milesians none of the Ionians would offer help to lighten this war except the Chians alone, but they, as repayment in kind, lent aid, since in fact previously the Milesians joined the Chians in bearing to the end the war against the Erythraeans.

In the twelfth year when the standing grain was being set on fire by the army, there happened to come about an event like this: as soon as the standing grain caught fire, violently driven by the wind, it set on fire the temple of Athena under the name Assesian, and the temple, set on fire, burned down. Indeed in the immediate time no account was made, but afterward on the army's coming to Sardis, Alyattes fell ill and, when his illness became somewhat long, he sent to Delphi messengers to consult the oracle, either, as is likely, at someone's advice, or it may be, he thought he should send them and ask about the illness. But on their coming to Delphi, Pythia said to them she would make no proclamation until they rebuilt the temple of Athena that they had set on fire in the Milesian land in Assesus.

I know that happened because I heard it from the Delphians, but the Milesians add this to it, that Periander, the son of Cypselus, being Thrasyboulus the then tyrant of Miletus’ foreign friend to the greatest degree, on learning by inquiry of the oracle made for Alyattes, sent a messenger and had it recounted that with some foreknowledge he might take counsel according to the present situation.

Now, the Milesians say the above happened, and Alyattes, after that oracle had been reported to him, at once sent a herald to Miletus, because he wanted to make a truce with Thrasyboulus and the Milesians the whole time that he would be building the temple. The envoy then set out for Miletus, but Thrasyboulus, having previously learned the whole account distinctly and knowing what Alyattes was to do, contrived a plan like this: all that food that was in the town, both his own and the private, he brought together into the public square and commanded the Milesians that whenever he himself gave the signal, then they should drink and indulge in revelry with one another. The above Thrasyboulus did and commanded for this reason, that the herald from Sardis naturally, after seeing a large pile of food heaped up and human beings engaged in enjoyments, might announce it to Alyattes. And that's what actually happened. For, just when the herald, after seeing those things and saying to Thrasyboulus what the Lydian had enjoined, had gone back to Sardis, because of nothing else, as I know by inquiry, was the reconciliation made. For Alyattes, supposing there was a severe food shortage in Miletus and the population was worn out to the extreme of misfortune, heard from the herald on his return from Miletus accounts the opposite of what he firmly expected, and afterward the reconciliation of the parties was made on condition that they should be foreign friends and allies of each other, and two temples for Athena, instead of one, Alyattes built in Assesus and himself rose from his illness.

So regarding the war against the Milesians and Thrasyboulus it was thus for Alyattes, but there was Periander, Cypselus’ son, the one who had disclosed the oracle to Thrasyboulus. Periander was tyrant of Corinth, and it’s for him the Corinthians say (and the Lesbians agree with them) in the course of his life a very great marvel occurred, Arion the Methymnaean borne out on a dolphin to Taenarum, who was a singing cithara player second to none of those then alive and the first of human beings that we know of to compose, name and produce a dithyramb in Corinth. That Arion, they say, spending the greater part of his time at Periander’s court, conceived a desire to sail to Italy and Sicily and, once he had earned much money, he wished to come back to Corinth. Now, he started out from Tarentum and trusting none more than the Corinthians, he hired a boat of Corinthian men, but they on the open sea plotted to throw Arion over and have his money. He then, aware of that, made entreaties by offering to give them money and by earnestly begging for life. However, he could not persuade them by that means, but the seamen bade him either to use himself fatally that he might obtain burial on land or to leap out into the sea the quickest way. Brought to straits, Arion begged them, since they were so decided, to allow him, standing in full costume, to sing on the quarterdeck and, after singing, he promised to make an end of himself. Since pleasure entered into them in that they were to hear the best singer among human beings, they withdrew from the stern to the middle of the ship. Then he put on his full costume and took hold of his cithara, stood on the quarterdeck and went through the shrill melody, and at the melody's end cast himself into the sea as he was with his full costume. So those men sailed away to Corinth, while him a dolphin, they say, took up from below and bore out to Taenarum. When he had alighted, he went to Corinth with his costume and on coming related everything that had happened. Yet Periander out of disbelief held Arion under guard and would let him go nowhere, while he gave heed to the seamen, but when lo! they had come, they were called and asked whether they had anything to say about Arion. As they were stating that he was safe at Italy and they left him faring well in Tarentum, Arion showed himself to them just he was when he had leapt out, and they in astonishment could not any longer, since they were being convicted, make denials. Now, the Corinthians and the Lesbians give that account, and there is a bronze statue of Arion, not a large one, at Taenarum, a human being who is on a dolphin.

Alyattes the Lydian bore to the end the war against the Milesians and thereafter met with his end when he had been king fifty seven years. He made offerings, on getting free from his illness—he was the second of that house to do so—at Delphi: a large silver bowl and an iron soldered bowl-stand worth beholding above all the offerings in Delphi, Glaucus the Chian’s work, who quite alone of all human beings invented a means of soldering iron.

After Alyattes had met with his end, Croesus, the son of Alyattes, succeeded to the kingdom, who was thirty five years of age, and it was he who attacked the Ephesians first among the Greeks. Hereupon the Ephesians, besieged by him, dedicated their city to Artemis by fastening a cord from her temple to their wall. (There is between the ancient city, which then was under siege, and the temple seven stades.) On those first then Croesus laid hands and afterward in turn on each group of Ionians and Aeolians; he brought different accusations against the different groups: on those against whom he could discover greater grounds for accusation, he laid greater blame, while against the others he brought even paltry charges.

When lo! the Greeks in Asia had been subjected to tribute payment, at that time he was intending to build ships and lay hands on the islanders. But, when he possessed everything ready for shipbuilding, some say Bias the Prienian came to Sardis, others Pittacus the Mytilenaean, and at Croesus’ asking whether there was any news about Greece, said the following and put a stop to the shipbuilding: “O king, the islanders are trying to buy up ten thousand horse, since they have in mind to advance with an army to Sardis and against you.” Then Croesus, on supposition that he spoke truly, said, “If only the gods would put that into the mind of the islanders, to come against the sons of the Lydians with horses!” And he in reply said, “O king, eagerly you appear to me to pray to get hold of the islanders on horse on the mainland, since you expect what’s likely. And the islanders—what do you think they should pray other than, as soon as they have learned by inquiry you are to build ships against them, a prayer to get hold of the Lydians on the sea, that they may punish you on behalf of the Greeks living on the mainland, whom you have enslaved and keep so?” Croesus, it is said, took very much pleasure in the reasoning and, since he thought he spoke fittingly, was persuaded by him and ceased from shipbuilding. And thus with the Ionians living on the islands he agreed on friendly relations.

When time had gone by and almost all those living on this side of the Halys river were in subjection, since except for the Cilicians and the Lycians, Croesus had subjected all the others under him and kept them so (and they are these: the Lydians, the Phrygians, the Mysians, the Mariandynians, the Chalybians, the Paphlagonians, the Thracians Thynian and Bithynian, the Carians, the Ionians, the Dorians, the Aeolians and the Pamphylians), when those then were in subjection and Croesus was trying to add acquisitions to the Lydians, there came to Sardis, abounding in riches, all the other wise men from Greece that were in fact alive at that time—in his own way each of them came—and particularly Solon, an Athenian man, who at the Athenian’s bidding had framed laws for them and gone abroad ten years, after sailing out on pretext of seeing sights that he might not be compelled to annul any of the laws that he had laid down. For on their own the Athenians were unable to do that, because they were bound by great oaths ten years to observe the laws that Solon had laid them down. Therefore for this very reason indeed and seeing sights Solon was abroad and came into Egypt to Amasis and especially into Sardis to Croesus. On coming he was received as a guest in the royal palace by Croesus and afterward, the third or fourth day, at Croesus’ bidding servants led Solon round through the treasuries and pointed out that everything was great and prosperous. After he had beheld and inspected everything, when it was seasonable for him, Croesus asked this: “Athenian guest, since many a report has come to us about you both concerning your wisdom and wandering that loving wisdom, you have gone over much ground for the sake of seeing sights, therefore longing now falls over me to ask you whether by now you have seen of all men a most prosperous." He, supposing he was the most prosperous of human beings, asked that, but Solon with no trace of flattery at all but solely with a regard for what was, said, “O king, Tellus, an Athenian.” Croesus marvelled much at what had been said and asked vehemently, “Just how do you judge Tellus to be the most prosperous?” And he said, “On the one hand, Tellus, while his city was well off, had good and beautiful children and he saw offspring were born to them all and all survived; on the other, for him, while he was well off in his livelihood, a most brilliant end of his life, as is our judgement of things, supervened. For, in a battle fought by the Athenians against their neighbors in Eleusis, he came to the rescue and brought about a rout of the enemy, died most beautifully and the Athenians buried him at the public expense there at the very spot where he had fallen and they honored him greatly.”

When in regard to Tellus’ affairs Solon had incited Croesus by speaking of many prosperities, he asked whom he saw second after that man, since he fully thought he would win second prize at least. And he said, “Cleobis and Biton. For to them, being Argive in race, sufficient life belonged and in addition to that strength of body of the following kind. Both alike were prizewinners, and what’s more there is told this account: When the Argives held a festival for Hera, their mother had absolutely to be conveyed by chariot to the shrine and the bulls from the field could not attend them in time. So constrained by the time, the young men slipped themselves under the yoke and began to draw the wagon, and on the wagon their mother rode under their power. Forty five stades they conveyed her over and came to the shrine. Then for them, after they had done that and been seen by the whole festival gathering, a best end of their life supervened, and the god showed plainly in that that it is better for a human being to be dead rather than to live. For, while Argive men stood round and thought blessed the young men’s strength and the Argive women thought blessed their mother—what kind of offspring she had gotten!—the mother, being very glad at the deed and the report, stood opposite the god’s statue and prayed that to Cleobis and Biton, her own offspring, who had honored her greatly, the goddess should give what is best for a human being to receive, and after that prayer, when they had sacrificed and feasted, the young men fell asleep in the shrine itself and no longer rose but were held in that end. So the Argives had likenesses of them made and dedicated them at Delphi on the ground that they proved the best men.”

Solon then dispensed second prize in happiness to them, and Croesus in anger said, “O stranger of Athens, and has our happiness so by you been set at nothing that you render us worth not even private men?” And he said, “O Croesus, me who know that the divine is entirely jealous and troublesome you ask about human affairs. For in a long time many things it is possible to see that one is unwilling and many also to suffer. Now, at seventy years I fix the limit of life for a human being. Those years, being seventy, amount to twenty five thousand two hundred days, if an intercalary month is not added, but if every other of the years shall be made a month longer just that the seasons may turn out to come to what’s necessary, the months in the seventy years that are intercalary come to be thirty five and the days of those months one thousand fifty. Of all those days coming to the seventy years, being twenty six thousand two hundred fifty, one of them to another day brings absolutely no similar matter. Thus then, o Croesus, a human being is entirely chance. To me you both appear to have great wealth and to be king of many human beings, but that name about which you asked me not yet can I call you until I learn by inquiry you have come to the end of your time beautifully. For in no way is the greatly wealthy rather than he who has enough for a day more prosperous, if fortune should not attend him to come well with everything beautiful to the end of his life, since many very wealthy human beings are unprosperous and many who are moderate in livelihood are of good fortune. The greatly wealthy but unprosperous, then, in two ways only surpasses him of good fortune, while he the wealthy, yet unprosperous, in many; for, although the one to fulfil desire and bear great ruin at its befalling is more able, yet the other in the following ways surpasses him: not withstanding that ruin and desire he’s not able like that man to bear, them good fortune from him keeps and he is unmaimed, undiseased, unharmed by evils, a possessor of good children, a possessor of good looks and, if in addition to that he still will come to the end of his life well, that is he whom you seek, the one worthy to be called prosperous, but until he meets with his end, hold back and not yet call him prosperous but rather of good fortune. Now, to get all those goods together for one who is a human being is impossible, just as no country is fully sufficient to supply everything for itself, but has one thing and is in want of another, and whichever has the most, that’s the best. Likewise a human being’s one body is nothing self-sufficient; for it has something and is in need of another. Whoever of them, then, continues to have most and thereafter comes agreeably to the end of his life, that in my judgement, o king, is the right one to win that name. So one must look to every matter’s end how it will come out. For the god gives a glimpse of prosperity to quite many and afterward pulls them up by the roots.”

After Solon’s going a great nemesis from a god got hold of Croesus in that, to make a conjecture, he believed himself to be of all human beings the most prosperous. At once over him, while he slept, hovered a dream which brought to light for him the truth of the evils that were to happen regarding his son. Now, Croesus had two sons, one of which was defective, since he was a deaf mute, while the other of his contemporaries was far the first in all respects, and his name was Atys. It was that Atys then about whom the dream indicated to Croesus that he would lose him struck by an iron spear. So he, after he had awakened and deliberated with himself, in fear of the dream not only brought back home for his son a wife, and him, accustomed to be general of the Lydians, nowhere any longer would send out for a matter like that, but also javelins, spears and everything like that that human beings use for war, he carried away from the men’s apartments to the women’s apartments and piled together lest any suspended fall on his son.

While his son had in hand his marriage, there came to Sardis a man in the grip of misfortune and not pure of hand, who was Phrygian in race and of the royal family. He went into the palace of Croesus and in accordance with the native laws asked to obtain purification, and Croesus purified him. (The manner of purification of the Lydians is nearly the same as the Greeks’.) When Croesus had done what conformed to the law, he inquired whence and who he was in these words: “O fellow human being, being who and having come whence in Phrygia have you gotten to my hearth? And whom of men or women did you kill?” And he answered, “O king, of Gordias, the son of Mides, I am the son, and I am named Adrastus. I killed my own brother unwillingly and here I am, driven out by my father and bereft of everything.” And Croesus answered him with this: “You are in fact a descendant of men who are friends and have come to friends, where you will be at a loss for nothing as long as you remain in our home. Bearing that misfortune as lightly as possible, you will gain most.”

He then dwelt at Croesus’ and in that same time in Mysian Olympus a great monster of a boar arose. He, making his base on that mountain, was destroying the fields of the Mysians, and often the Mysians went out against him and, although they did him no harm, yet suffered it by him. Finally, on coming to Croesus the Mysians’ messengers said this: “O king, a very great monster of a boar appears to us in our country that destroys our fields. Eager as we are to capture him, we are unable. We now request of you, then, your son, picked young men and hounds to send with us that we may remove him from our country.” They then asked for that, and Croesus, remembering the sayings of the dream, said to them this: “About my son no longer mention; for I would not send him with you, since he is newly married and that is now his care. Nevertheless, picked men of the Lydians and the whole hound pack I will send with you and exhort them to go and be as eager as possible to join with you to remove the beast from your country.” He answered that.

The Mysians being content with that, the son of Croesus came in after, who had heard what the Mysians asked for. Because Croesus said he would not send his son at any rate with them, the young man spoke to him this: “O father, in any previous time the most beautiful and noblest things were ours, to go constantly to wars and to hunts and be of good repute. But now you have shut me out of both of those and keep me so, although you neither noticed in me any cowardice nor faintheartedness. To what sort of eyes must I now, when I go constantly to the public square and from the public square, appear? What sort of person will I be thought to be to my fellow citizens and what sort of person to my newly married wife? With what sort of husband will she be thought to cohabit? You then either set me free to go to the chase or convince me by speech how doing what you are doing is better for me.” Croesus answered with this: “O son, neither cowardice nor anything else unagreeable did I notice in you and so do that, but rather over me a dream’s vision in my sleep hovered and said you would be shortlived, since you would be killed by an iron spear. Therefore because of that vision I hastened that marriage of yours and do not send you to the undertakings, in that I was keeping guard on the chance that in some way I could during my lifetime preserve you stealthily. For you are in fact my one and only son inasmuch as I count the other indeed, since he’s defective, not to be mine.”

(to be continued)

soldiers at the Pathenon, Athens

Text and photographs Copyright © 1999—2003 Lost Trails
all rights reserved