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Melpomene   


they held a council to consider the matter.
Darius gave it as his opinion that the Scyths intended a surrender
of themselves and their country, both land and water, into his
hands. This he conceived to be the meaning of the gifts, because the
mouse is an inhabitant of the earth, and eats the same food as man,
while the frog passes his life in the water; the bird bears a great
resemblance to the horse, and the arrows might signify the surrender
of all their power. To the explanation of Darius, Gobryas, one of
the seven conspirators against the Magus, opposed another which was as
follows:- "Unless, Persians, ye can turn into birds and fly up into
the sky, or become mice and burrow under the ground, or make
yourselves frogs, and take refuge in the fens, ye will never make
escape from this land, but die pierced by our arrows. Such were
meanings which the Persians assigned to the gifts.
The single division of the Scyths, which in the early part of
the war had been appointed to keep guard about the Palus Maeotis,
and had now been sent to get speech of the Ionians stationed at the
Ister, addressed them, on reaching the bridge, in these words- "Men of
Ionia, we bring you freedom, if ye will only do as we recommend.
Darius, we understand, enjoined you to keep your guard here at this
bridge just sixty days; then, if he did not appear, you were to return
home. Now, therefore, act so as to be free from blame, alike in his
sight, and in ours. Tarry here the appointed time, and at the end go
your ways." Having said this, and received a promise from the
Ionians to do as they desired, the Scythians hastened back with all
possible speed.
After the sending of the gifts to Darius, the part of the Scythian
army which had not marched to the Ister, drew out in battle array
horse and foot against the Persians, and seemed about to come to an
engagement. But as they stood in battle array, it chanced that a
hare started up between them and the Persians, and set to running;
when immediately all the Scyths who saw it, rushed off in pursuit,
with great confusion and loud cries and shouts. Darius, hearing the
noise, inquired the cause of it, and was told that the Scythians
were all engaged in hunting a hare. On this he turned to those with
whom he was wont to converse, and said:- "These men do indeed
despise us utterly: and now I see that Gobryas was right about the
Scythian gifts. As, therefore, his opinion is now mine likewise, it is
time we form some wise plan whereby we may secure ourselves a safe
return to our homes." "Ah! sire," Gobryas rejoined, "I was well nigh
sure, ere I came here, that this was an impracticable race- since
our coming I am yet more convinced of it, especially now that I see
them making game of us. My advice is, therefore, that, when night
falls, we light our fires as we are wont to do at other times, and
leaving behind us on some pretext that portion of our army which is
weak and unequal to hardship, taking care also to leave our asses
tethered, retreat from Scythia, before our foes march forward to the
Ister and destroy the bridge, or the Ionians come to any resolution
which may lead to our ruin."
So Gobryas advised; and when night came, Darius followed his
counsel, and leaving his sick soldiers, and those whose loss would
be of least account, with the asses also tethered about the camp,
marched away. The asses were left that their noise might be heard: the
men, really because they were sick and useless, but under the pretence
that he was about to fall upon the Scythians with the flower of his
troops, and that they meanwhile were to guard his camp for him. Having
thus declared his plans to the men whom he was deserting, and having
caused the fires to be lighted, Darius set forth, and marched
hastily towards the Ister. The asses, aware of the departure of the
host, brayed louder than ever; and the Scythians, hearing the sound,
entertained no doubt of the Persians being still in the same place.
When day dawned, the men who had been left behind, perceiving that
they were betrayed by Darius, stretched out their hands towards the
Scythians, and spoke as. befitted their situation. The enemy no sooner

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