GCSE Greek: Tales from Herodotus (2017)


Tales from Herodotus

Stories of Amasis; Story of Euenius
Respect for Suppliants Enfocred by an Oracle

GCSE Greek set text 2016-17

Head of a statue of Pharaoh Amasis, 26th dynasty, Late Period, Ancient Egypt, approx. 550 B.C.



A fragmentary statue head of Amasis II

Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus and wrote his Histories in the middle of the 5th century BC. It is considered to be the first historical work of Western literature, and Herodotus is widely known as the “Father of History.”

The three Herodotus passages come from Farnell’s Tales from Herodotus (out of copyright version available here), in which the Greek has been lightly adapted from the original Ionic dialect of Herodotus to the Attic dialect of classical Athens.

The set text

The first sections (Stories of Amasis) tell three stories about the last pharaoh of Egypt, Amasis II. Amasis wins the respect of the disparaging Egyptians by making a clever analogy between his life and the fate of a footbath (A). He also tells his anxious advisers that a man needs to unwind sometimes, in the same way a bow should be unstrung when not in use (B). We also hear about Amasis’ alleged dodgy past, and how he dealt with those who had let him go unpunished (C).

The second passage (Story of Euenius) is set in Apollonia and discusses the fate of Euenius, the father of the prophet Deïphonus. The story is actually a digression in Herodotus’ main narrative about the war with Persia. During his watch, Euenius fails to protect all the sacred sheep from a wolf attack and is blinded by the Apolloniates as a consequence (A). The land soon becomes infertile. The Apolloniates consult oracles, who tell them to pay compensation to Euenius (B). In the final section (C), the Apolloniates dupe Euenius into choosing less than he might have done had they been more honest. The gods grant him the gift of prophecy.

The third and final passage (Respect for suppliants enforced by an oracle) is set in Aeolis in the 540s BC. Pactyes, a Lydian, has fled to Cyme after organising a failed revolt against the Persians. His request for asylum causes a problem for the Cymaeans, since they are unwilling to incur the wrath of the Persians, who are demanding his extradition. The Cymaeans seek advice from an oracle, who tells them to hand over Pactyes to the Persians. An influential citizen, Aristodicus, suspects foul play and leads a second party to the oracle (A). The oracle’s answer remains unchanged, and Aristodicus reacts with fury, yet there is a twist in the tale (B).

Amasis A

Ἀπρίου δὲ καθῃρημένου ἐβασίλευσεν Ἄμασις. Τὰ μὲν δὴ πρῶτα κατώνοντο τὸν Ἄμασιν Αἰγύπτιοι καὶ ἐν οὐδεμίᾳ μοίρᾳ μεγάλῃ ἦγον, ἅτε δὴ δημότην τὸ πρὶν ὄντα καὶ οἰκίας οὐκ ἐπιφανοῦς· μετὰ δὲ σοφίᾳ αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἄμασις οὐκ ἀγνωμοσύνῃ προσηγάγετο.

When Apries Ἀπρίου δὲ had been deposed καθῃρημένου, Amasis Ἄμασις became king ἐβασίλευσεν. Indeed δὴ, μὲν at first Τὰ πρῶτα the Egyptians Αἰγύπτιοι looked down on κατώνοντο Amasis τὸν Ἄμασιν and καὶ held him ἦγον in ἐν no οὐδεμίᾳ great μεγάλῃ regard μοίρᾳ, because ἅτε indeed δὴ he was ὄντα formerly τὸ πρὶν a commoner δημότην and καὶ not οὐκ from a distinguished ἐπιφανοῦς household οἰκίας; but δὲ afterwards μετὰ Amasis Ἄμασις won them over προσηγάγετο αὐτοὺς with wisdom σοφίᾳ, not οὐκ with arrogance ἀγνωμοσύνῃ.

Ἀπρίου δὲ καθῃρημένου – Apries ruled Egypt from 589 BC – 570 BC. Following a civil war, he was overthrown and replaced by a popular general, the Amasis of these stories.

An obelisk erected in Sais, Egypt, by Apries, now located outside Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, Italy.

ἐβασίλευσεν Ἄμασις – Amasis ruled for the best part of 45 years. He cultivated closer ties with the Greeks, and died 6 months before the Persians conquered Egypt in 525 BC.

Ἀπρίου…Ἄμασις – A chiasmus, which neatly conveys the sense of power transitioning from ruler to ruler.

Τὰ πρῶτα – “At first”. Usually found in the singular without the article (πρῶτον).

κατώνοντο τὸν Ἄμασιν – Note the promotion of the verb to emphasise the Egyptians’ attitude towards Amasis’ humble origins.

ἐν οὐδεμίᾳ μοίρᾳ μεγάλῃ ἦγον – Essentially the same as κατώνοντο just before. By this repetition, and the litotes of ἐν οὐδεμίᾳ μοίρᾳ μεγάλῃ, Herodotus is emphasising the Egyptians’ concern for their rulers to be of noble blood. In fact, Amasis eventually married one of Apries’ daughters, Chedebnitjerbone II, in order to legitimise his rule.

ἅτε…ὄντα – “Because he was…” This particular construction (ἅτε + participle) is used because Herodotus is stating this as a factual reason (ὡς + participle is used for an alleged reason).

καὶ οἰκίας οὐκ ἐπιφανοῦς – Once again, a repeated idea (this time of δημότην) and a litotes to emphasise the problem the Egyptians had with Amasis’ lack of noble heritage.

μετὰ δὲ – μετὰ here is an adverb, “afterwards”.

σοφίᾳ – This outstanding attribute of Amasis is prominent at the front of the sentence. It contrasts sharply with ἀγνωμοσύνῃ (“foolish pride”).

Ἦν αὐτῷ ἄλλα τε ἀγαθὰ μυρία καὶ ποδανιπτὴρ χρύσους ἐν ᾧ αὐτός τε ὁ Ἄμασις καὶ οἱ δαιτυμόνες πάντες τοὺς πόδας ἑκάστοτε ἐναπενίζοντο. Τοῦτον οὖν κατακόψας ἄγαλμα δαίμονος ἐξ αὐτοῦ ἐποιήσατο, καὶ ἵδρυσεν ὅπου ἦν ἐπιτηδειότατον· οἱ δὲ Αἰγύπτιοι φοιτῶντες πρὸς τὸ ἄγαλμα ἐσέβοντο μεγάλως.

He had Ἦν αὐτῷ countless other goods ἄλλα τε ἀγαθὰ μυρία and καὶ a golden χρύσους footbath ποδανιπτὴρ, in ἐν which both τε Amasis Ἄμασις himself αὐτός and καὶ all οἱ πάντες his dinner guests δαιτυμόνες used to wash ἐναπενίζοντο their feet τοὺς πόδας each time ἑκάστοτε. So οὖν, having cut this into pieces Τοῦτον κατακόψας, he made ἐποιήσατο a statue ἄγαλμα of a god δαίμονος out of ἐξ it αὐτοῦ and καὶ set it up ἵδρυσεν where ὅπου it was ἦν most appropriate ἐπιτηδειότατον; but δὲ the Egyptians οἱ Αἰγύπτιοι, when they visited φοιτῶντες πρὸς the statue τὸ ἄγαλμα, worshipped it ἐσέβοντο greatly μεγάλως.

Ἦν αὐτῷ – “He had” (lit. “there was to him”).

ἄλλα τε ἀγαθὰ μυρία καὶ… – καὶ after ἄλλος…τε always lays particular emphasis on what follows (in this case, the footbath). In natural English: “He had, as well as countless other goods, a golden footbath”.

κατακόψας – “cutting to pieces”; κατα- compounded with a verb often has an intensifying force, lit. ‘right down to the end.’ In English, however, we speak of ‘cutting up.’

μεγάλως – Herodotus highlights the extent of the Egyptians’ veneration of the ex-footbath to draw a clear contrast between Amasis’ wisdom and their credulity.

Μαθὼν δὲ ὁ Ἄμασις συγκαλέσας Αἰγυπτίους ἐξέφηνε φὰς ἐκ τοῦ ποδανιπτῆρος τὸ ἄγαλμα γεγονέναι, εἰς ὅν πρότερον μὲν οἱ Αἰγύπτιοι ἐνεμοῖέν τε καὶ πόδας ἐναπονίζοιντο, τότε δὲ μεγάλως σέβοιντο.

But when Amasis found out δὲ Ἄμασις Μαθὼν he summoned συγκαλέσας the Egyptians Αἰγυπτίους and revealed the truth ἐξέφηνε, saying φὰς that the statue τὸ ἄγαλμα had been made γεγονέναι out of ἐκ the footbath τοῦ ποδανιπτῆρος into εἰς which ὅν the Egyptians μὲν οἱ Αἰγύπτιοι had vomited ἐνεμοῖέν earlier πρότερον and τε καὶ washed ἐναπονίζοιντο their feet πόδας, but δὲ currently τότε they were worshipping it σέβοιντο greatly μεγάλως.

Μαθὼν…συγκαλέσας…ἐξέφηνε – Herodotus maintains the pace of the story by using two participles and a verb, leaving out extraneous detail.

πρότερον μὲν…τότε δὲ – the turnaround in the fortune of the footbath is stark – underscored by the contrast of πρότερον and τότε, the use of μὲν… δὲ, and μεγάλως (again) to describe the Egyptians’ worship of it.

ἐνεμοῖέν – “vomited”. This additional, unpleasant detail was omitted in Herodotus’ initial description of the footbath. Its inclusion now helps Amasis make his point more strongly. This verb, ἐναπονίζοιντο and σέβοιντο are all in the optative because they are in a relative clause in indirect statement (a construction beyond the GCSE language syllabus).

ἤδη οὖν, ἔφη λέγων, ὁμοίως αὐτὸς τῷ ποδανιπτῆρι πεπραγέναι· εἰ γὰρ πρότερον εἴη δημότης, ὅμως ἐν τῷ παρόντι εἶναι αὐτῶν βασιλεύς· καὶ τιμᾶν τε καὶ προμηθεῖσθαι ἑαυτοῦ ἐκέλευε.

So οὖν now ἤδη, he went on to say ἔφη λέγων, he αὐτὸς had turned out πεπραγέναι in a similar way ὁμοίως to the footbath τῷ ποδανιπτῆρι. For γὰρ although εἰ he had been εἴη a commoner δημότης earlier πρότερον, nevertheless ὅμως at the present time ἐν τῷ παρόντι he was εἶναι their αὐτῶν king βασιλεύς; and καὶ he ordered them ἐκέλευε to honour τιμᾶν and τε καὶ show respect προμηθεῖσθαι to him ἑαυτοῦ.

ἔφη λέγων – “he went on to say”.

Amasis B

Τοιούτῳ μὲν τρόπῳ προσηγάγετο τοὺς Αἰγυπτίους ὥστε δικαιοῦν δουλεύειν. ἐχρῆτο δὲ καταστάσει πραγμάτων τοιᾷδε· τὸ μὲν ὄρθριον, μέχρι πληθούσης ἀγορᾶς, προθύμως ἔπραττε τὰ προσφερόμενα πράγματα· τὸ δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦδε ἐπινέ τε καὶ κατέσκωπτε τοὺς συμπότας καὶ ἦν μάταιός τε καὶ παιγνιήμων.

In such a way he won over the Egyptians so that they thought it right to serve him. And he employed the following arrangement for his affairs; in the morning, until the market-place was full, he eagerly dealt with the business brought before him; but after that he drank and played pranks on his fellow-drinkers and he was waggish and fond of a joke.

Τοιούτῳ τρόπῳ – i.e. through the analogy of the footbath (and hence his “σοφίᾳ”).

ἐχρῆτο δὲ καταστάσει πραγμάτων τοιᾷδε – “he employed the following arrangement for his affairs” (lit. “he used the following arrangement of things”).

τὸ μὲν ὄρθριον…τὸ δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦδε – the μὲν…δὲ construction helps to draw the contrast between Amasis’ actions in the morning and afterwards.

A relief on the Karnak Temple showing Amasis in front of the gods.

πληθούσης ἀγορᾶς – “the market-place was filling up.” This is a technical term for late morning (about 9-11am). According to Herodotus, the four divisions of the day are: the early morning (ὄρθρος); late morning (ἀγορᾶς πληθούσης); noon (μεσημβρία); afternoon (ἀποκιλνομένη ἡμέρα).

προθύμως – “eagerly.” The promotion of this adverb helps to portray Amasis as a conscientious ruler. His serious attitude towards business is underlined by the alliteration of προθύμως ἔπραττε τὰ προσφερόμενα πράγματα, as he works his way through the day’s tasks.

τὸ δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦδε – “after that” (adverbial).

ἐπινέ τε καὶ κατέσκωπτε – the imperfect tense of these verbs show that these actions of Amasis were habitual.

συμπότας – “fellow-drinkers.” Formed from the prefix συμ- (“with”) and the stem πότ- (part of πίνω), from which English gets the words “potable” and “potion,” among others.

τε καὶ κατέσκωπτε τοὺς συμπότας καὶ ἦν μάταιός τε καὶ παιγνιήμων – the excessive connectives (polysyndeton) highlight Amasis’ waggish behaviour when business time was over.

Ἀχθεσθέντες δὲ τούτοις οἱ φίλοι αὐτοῦ ἐνουθέτουν αὐτόν, τοιάδε λέγοντες, 'Ὦ βασιλεῦ, οὐκ ὀρθῶς σεαυτοῦ προύστηκας, εἰς τὸ ἄγαν φλαῦρον προάγων σεαυτόν. σὲ γὰρ χρῆν ἐν θρόνῳ σεμνῷ σεμνὸν θακοῦντα δι' ἡμέρας πράττειν τὰ πράγματα· καὶ οὕτως Αἰγύπτιοί τ'ἂν ἠπίσταντο ὡς ὑπ' ἀνδρὸς μεγάλου ἄρχονται, καὶ ἄμεινον σὺ ἂν ἤκουες· νῦν δὲ ποιεῖς οὐδαμῶς βασιλικά.'

Annoyed at these things, his friends rebuked him, saying this, “O king, you do not conduct yourself correctly, leading yourself on into excessive frivolity. For you should have managed your affairs sitting solemnly on your solemn throne throughout the day; and in this way the Egyptians would know that they were being ruled by a great man, and you would hear better things said about you; but as it is you behave in no way like a king.”

Ἀχθεσθέντες – the harsh sounds (cacophony) of the double consonants χ and θ point up the irritation of his friends.

Ὦ βασιλεῦ – the friends start with a respectful address, before saying what is bothering them. The whole speech is almost certainly an invention by Herodotus to make the story more vivid.

τὸ ἄγαν φλαῦρον – “excessive frivolity.” Adverbs preceded by the article are often used in Greek like adjectives, e.g. οἱ νῦν ἄνδρες (“the men of today”).

σεμνῷ σεμνὸν – the repetition (specifically, polyptoton) reinforces how the friends expect Amasis to behave.

δι’ ἡμέρας – “throughout the day” – because, as things stand, Amasis likes to wrap up business before noon.

The Ruins of Sais (where Amasis ruled from),  Karl Richard Lepsius (1810–1884)

ἂν ἠπίσταντο ὡς ὑπ’ ἀνδρὸς μεγάλου ἄρχονται – tactfully saying that Amasis is in fact a great man, but he needs to ensure the Egyptians realise this.

νῦν δὲ – “but as it is.”

οὐδαμῶς βασιλικά – a blunt appraisal of Amasis’ behaviour. βασιλικά is in a very emphatic position as the last word of the whole speech.

Ὁ δὲ ἠμείβετο τοῖσδε αὐτούς, 'Οἱ τὰ τόξα κεκτημένοι, ἐπὴν μὲν δέωνται χρῆσθαι, ἐντείνουσιν· ἐπὴν δὲ χρήσωνται, ἐκλύουσιν· εἰ γὰρ δὴ τὸν πάντα χρόνον ἐντεταμένα εἴη, ἐκραγείη ἄν ὥστε εἰς τὸ δέον οὐκ ἂν ἔχοιεν αὐτοῖς χρῆσθαι. οὕτω δὴ καὶ ἀνθρώπου κατάστασις· εἰ ἐθέλοι κατεσπουδάσθαι ἀεὶ μηδὲ εἰς παιγνίαν τὸ μέρος ἑαυτὸν ἀνιέναι, λάθοι ἂν ἤτοι μανεὶς ἢ ἀπόπληκτος γενόμενος· ἃ ἐγὼ ἐπιστάμενος μέρος ἑκατέρῳ νέμω.'

But he replied to them with these words, “People who have bows, whenever they need to use them, bend them; but whenever they have finished using them, unstring them; for indeed if it was bent the whole time, it would snap so that they would not be able to use it for what is necessary. Indeed, in this way too is the situation of man; if he wished to be serious all the time and not in turn relax himself for amusement, he would be unaware that he was becoming either mad or deranged; knowing this I assign a part to each.”

Οἱ τὰ τόξα κεκτημένοι… – this speech of Amasis became proverbial. The Roman poet Horace wrote: Neque semper arcum tendit Apollo (“Nor does Apollo always extend his bow,” Odes, ii. 10. 19).

ἐπὴν μὲν… ἐπὴν δὲ – Amasis sets out his argument very clearly through repetition, short parallel sentences, and the use of μὲν…δὲ to contrast the two treatments of the bows.

οὐκ ἂν ἔχοιεν – “they (i.e. the owners of bows) would not be able…”

εἰς τὸ δέον – “for what was necessary.”

τὸ μέρος – “in part.” Amasis answers the friends’ charge of excessive (τὸ ἄγαν) frivolity – he is not, he is saying, a complete clown.

λάθοι – “he would be unaware.” The prominent position of this verb shows that Amasis considers the ignorance as bad as the insanity itself.

μανεὶς ἢ ἀπόπληκτος – to make his point more forcefully, Amasis uses two synonyms (tautology).

– a connecting relative: “these things.”

Amasis C

Λέγεται δὲ ὁ Ἄμασις, καὶ ὅτε ἦν ἰδιώτης, φιλοπότης εἶναι καὶ φιλοσκώμμων καὶ οὐδαμῶς κατεσπουδασμένος ἀνήρ· ὅπως δὲ αὐτὸν πίνοντά τε καὶ εὐπαθοῦντα ἐπιλείποι τα `ἐπιτήδεια, ἔκλεπτεν ἂν περιιών. οἱ δὲ φάμενοι αὐτὸν ἔχειν τὰ ἑαυτῶν χρήματα ἀρνούμενον ἦγον ἂν ἐπὶ μαντεῖον ὅπου ἑκάστοις εἴη· πολλάκις μὲν δὴ καὶ ἡλίσκετο ὑπὸ τῶν μαντείων, πολλάκις δὲ καὶ ἀπέφευγεν.

It is said that Amasis, even while he was a private citizen, was fond of a drink and fond of joking and in no way a serious man; and whenever his supplies ran out on him while he was drinking and making merry, he used to go round stealing. Those who claimed that he had their property, when he denied it, would take him to the oracle, wherever there was one in each case. Indeed often he was also convicted by the oracle, but often he got away with it also.

Λέγεται – This word suggests that Herodotus is relying on an oral source. He is acknowledging that this story may not be as historically accurate as the previous anecdotes.

Kneeling statuette of King Amasis, New York Met Museum

φιλοπότης…φιλοσκώμμων…οὐδαμῶς κατεσπουδασμένος – Amasis’ love of leisure time is stressed by a tricolon. The repeated prefixes φιλο- (“love”) provide a balance which is broken by the litotes of οὐδαμῶς κατεσπουδασμένος. We are left with the overall impression that Amasis was an utter party animal before he became king.

ἔκλεπτεν ἂν – “he used to steal.” The imperfect tense with ἂν can, as here, be used for a repeated or habitual action. According to the reports, Amasis was often going round thieving.

ἦγον ἂν – “they would take him.” Not only was his thieving habitual, but the repercussions became routine.

ἐπὶ μαντεῖον ὅπου ἑκάστοις εἴη – lit. “to an oracle where there was one for each.” In essence, “to the nearest oracle.”

πολλάκις μὲν…πολλάκις δὲ – the contrast between the actions of the oracles is put across by the μὲν…δὲ clause, and highlighted by the emphasis of δὴ and the repetition (anaphora) of πολλάκις…πολλάκις.

᾿Επεὶ δὲ καὶ ἐβασίλευσεν, ἐποίησε τοιάδε· ὅσοι μὲν αὐτὸν τῶν θεῶν ἀπέλυσαν μὴ φῶρα εἶναι, τούτων μὲν τῶν ἱερῶν οὔτε ἐπεμέλετο οὔτε εἰς ἐπισκευὴν ἐδίδου οὐδέν· οὐδὲ φοιτῶν ἔθυεν αὐτοῖς ὡς οὐδενὸς οὖσιν ἀξίοις, ψευδῆ δὲ μαντεῖα κεκτημένοις· ὅσοι δὲ αὐτὸν κατέδησαν φῶρα εἶναι, τούτων, ὡς ἀληθῶς θεῶν ὄντων καὶ ἀψευδῆ μαντεῖα παρεχομένων, τὰ μάλιστα ἐπεμέλετο.

But when he had become king, he did the following: all of the gods who had acquitted him for not being a thief, he neither looked after their temples nor gave anything towards their restoration; nor did he go and sacrifice to them since they were worthy of nothing, and they had acquired false oracles; but all those who had convicted him for being a thief, theirs, since they were truly gods and provided truthful oracles, he looked after especially.

᾿Επεὶ δὲ καὶ ἐβασίλευσεν – “when he had become king.” A clear demarcation of the second half of the story, and the counterpart to καὶ ὅτε ἦν ἰδιώτης. It is interesting to note that each half of the story contains exactly the same number of words (both in the original manuscript and in our adapted text). Herodotus uses perfect equilibrium to lay out this story.

οὔτε…οὔτε…οὐδέν – the number of negatives in this sentence (and the next) show how Amasis completely shunned those oracles who acquitted him.

Euenius A

Ἔστιν ἐν τῇ Ἀπολλωνίᾳ ἱερὰ ἡλίου πρόβατα, ἃ τὰς μὲν ἡμέρας βόσκεται παρὰ ποταμόν τινα, τὰς δὲ νύκτας ᾑρημένοι ἄνδρες, οἱ πλούτῳ τε καὶ γένει δοκιμώτατοι τῶν ἀστῶν,
φυλάττουσιν ἐνιαυτὸν ἕκαστος· περὶ πολλοῦ γὰρ δὴ ποιοῦνται οἱ Ἀπολλωνιᾶται τὰ πρόβατα ταῦτα ἐκ θεοπροπίου τινός· ἐν δὲ ἄντρῳ αὐλίζονται ἀπὸ τῆς πόλεως ἑκάς. ἔνθα δὴ τότε ὁ Εὐήνιος οὗτος ᾑρημένος ἐφύλαττε.

There are in Apollonia sheep sacred to the sun, which graze along a certain river by day, but by night chosen men, who are the most regarded of the townsfolk in terms of wealth and stock, guard them, each for a year; for indeed the Apolloniates value these sheep highly according to a certain oracle; and they lie out at night in a cave far away from the city. Indeed there at that time Euenius was on guard, since he had been chosen.

Ἀπολλωνίᾳ – Apollonia was founded in 588 BC by Greek colonists from Kerkyra and Corinth. It was situated in northwestern Greece (now modern Albania). Apollo, after whom the city was named, was the god of music, archery, prophecy and the sun.

ἡλίου πρόβατα – flocks or herds sacred to the sun are mentioned in several passages in early Greek writers, most famously in Homer’s Odyssey. There are usually about 360 of them, corresponding to one for each day of the year (ancient calendars often had fewer than 365 days in a year).

τὰς μὲν ἡμέρας … τὰς δὲ νύκτας – by day the sheep would be seen by the sun, meaning that it is only at night that a guard is called for.

ποταμόν τινα – The Aoös river near Tepelena, Albania.probably the river Aoös.

ᾑρημένοι ἄνδρες – the importance of the sheep, and therefore the duty of guarding them, is emphasised by the fact that men are specifically chosen for the job. The men are regarded the best in the city (δοκιμώτατοι τῶν ἀστῶν) in terms of wealth (πλούτῳ) and their birth (γένει); “by birth” probably meant they needed to show descent from the original settlers.

περὶ πολλοῦ δὴ ποιοῦνται – “esteem very highly” – more emphasis of the importance of the sheep.

οὕτος – “this”. Seems odd here, but the whole Euenius story is a digression in which Herodotus is telling a side story about the father (Euenius) of the prophet Deïphonus, who features in the main story about the war between Greece and Persia in 479 BC.

Καὶ ποτε αὐτοῦ κατακοιμηθέντος, λύκοι εἰς τὸ ἄντρον εἰσελθόντες διέφθειραν τῶν προβάτων ὡς ἑξήκοντα. ὁ δέ, ὡς ᾔσθετο, εἶχε σιγῇ καὶ ἔφραζεν οὐδενί, ἐν νῷ ἔχων ἀντικαταστήσειν ἄλλα πριάμενος. οἱ δὲ Ἀπολλωνιᾶται ὡς ἐπύθοντο, οὐ γὰρ ἔλαθεν αὐτοὺς ταῦτα γενόμενα, ὑπαγαγόντες αὐτὸν ὑπὸ δικαστήριον κατέκριναν τῆς ὄψεως στερηθῆναι.

And once, when he had fallen asleep, wolves came into the cave and ravaged about sixty of the sheep. And he, when he noticed, kept silent and spoke to no one, since he had in mind to buy others and substitute them. But when the Apolloniates found out, for these events did not escape their notice, they brought him in front of a court and condemned him to be deprived of his sight.

Euenius B

Ἐπεὶ δὲ τὸν Εὐήνιον ἐξετύφλωσαν, αὐτίκα μετὰ ταῦτα οὔτε πρόβατα αὐτοῖς ἔτικτεν οὔτε γῆ ἔφερεν ὁμοίως καρπόν. ἐπερωτωμένοις δὲ αὐτοῖς ἔν τε Δωδώνῃ καὶ ἐν Δελφοῖς τὸ αἴτιον τοῦ παρόντος κακοῦ, τοιάδε ἔφραζον οἱ θεοί,

When they had completely blinded Euenius, immediately after this neither did the sheep breed for them nor likewise did the land bear fruit. And when they inquired at Dodona and at Delphi the cause of the present evil, the gods said this to them:

ἔν τε Δωδώνῃ καὶ ἐν Δελφοῖς – Dodona in north west Greece was regarded as the oldest oracle in the Greek world, possibly dating to before 1000 BC. It was the most prestigious oracle after the one at Delphi, which was sacred to Apollo.

οἱ θεοί – used for the priest or priestess at the oracles who were supposed to speak the words with which the gods inspired them. They were usually staunch upholders of morality. In this instance they condemn the blinding of Euenius as cruel and excessive.

'Ἀδίκως τὸν φύλακα τῶν ἱερῶν προβάτων Εὐήνιον τῆς ὄψεως ἐστερήσατε· ἡμεῖς γὰρ ἐφωρμήσαμεν τοὺς λύκους, οὐ πρότερόν τε παυσόμεθα τιμωροῦντες ἐκείνῳ πρὶν ἂν δίκας δῶτε ἃς ἂν αὐτὸς ἕληται καὶ δικαιοῖ· τούτων δὲ τελουμένων αὐτοὶ δώσομεν Εὐηνίῳ δόσιν τοιαύτην ἣν ἔχοντα πολλοὶ ἀνθρώπων μακαριοῦσιν αὐτόν.'

“You have deprived the guard of the sacred sheep, Euenius, of his sight unjustly; for we stirred up the wolves, and we will not stop exacting punishment for that man until you have given compensation which he chooses and considers fair; when these things have been completed we shall give to Euenius the sort of gift which many men will consider him happy for having.”

Ἀδίκως … ἐστερήσατε – note how prominent this adverb is in the oracle’s answer. It is immediately clear that the Apolloniates have offended the gods. The whole reply is unusually straightforward for an oracular response, which are notorious for being cryptic, and thus open to misinterpretation.

ἡμεῖς γὰρ ἐφωρμήσαμεν τοὺς λύκους – sympathy might be felt for the Apolloniates as well as Euenius at this point, as they have all suffered punishment due to some mysterious divine plan.

πρότερον – signpost word for the upcoming πρὶν clause. Can be ignored for translation purposes.

ἕληται καὶ δικαιοῖ – “(what) he chooses and thinks fair.” δικαιοῖ is an important addition, as otherwise the Apolloniates could use threats or (more) violence to get Euenius to make a poor choice. As it is, they must use cunning and deception to minimise the rate of compensation.

δόσιν τοιαύτην – the audience is kept in suspense as, although we are told the gift will make Euenius seem blessed, we are given no specifics.

Euenius C

Οἱ δὲ Ἀπολλωνιᾶται ἀπόρρητα ποιησάμενοι τὰ χρηστήρια ταῦτα, προύθεσαν ἀστοῖς τισι διαπρᾶξαι· οἱ δὲ αὐτοῖς διέπραξαν ὧδε· καθημένου Εὐηνίου ἐν θάκῳ, ἐλθόντες παρίζοντο αὐτῷ, καὶ λόγους ἄλλους ἐποιοῦντο εἰς ὃ κατέβαινον συλλυπούμενοι τῷ πάθει. ταύτῃ δὲ ὑπάγοντες ἠρώτων τίνα δίκην ἂν ἕλοιτο, εἰ ἐθέλοιεν Ἀπολλωνιᾶται δίκας ὑποστῆναι δώσειν τῶν ποιηθέντων.

The Apolloniates, having made these oracles secret, assigned them to certain citizens to carry out; and they carried them out for them in this way; when Euenius sat on a seat they came and sat beside him, and made other conversation until they ended up expressing sympathy for his suffering. Leading him on in this way, they asked what compensation he would choose if the Apolloniates were willing to promise to give compensation for what had been done.

ἀπόρρητα – “hidden” (lit. “unspoken”). This word sets the tone for most of the rest of the passage. The Apolloniates have a real problem – their welfare is at the mercy of someone who has suffered terribly at their hands. They decide to embark on a deceitful course of action in order to protect their interests as much as possible, while still fulfilling the instructions of the oracle.Statue found at Dodona, probably of Apollo, c.530 BC. Now in the Louvre, Paris.

ἀστοῖς τισι – we are given no more information about these agents. Their identity, like their mission, is shrouded in secrecy.

λόγους ἄλλους ἐποιοῦντο – “they made other conversation”. There is a sense of realism in Herodotus’ account. The townsfolk are careful not to arouse Euenius’ suspicion.

κατέβαινον συλλυπούμενοι – “they went on to sympathise.” The verb κατέβαινον implies that they at length approached the subject which they really wanted to discuss. The prefix κατά expresses a metaphorical descent to the point aimed at (compare with the English expression “get down to business”).

ταύτῃ ὑπαγαγόντες – ταύτῃ is adverbial (understand ὁδῷ). The prefix ὑπό compounded with a verb very often, as in this case, implies secrecy or deception.

ἂν ἕλοιτο, εἰ ἐθέλοιεν – both verbs are in the optative, which is used for remote conditions in the future (“what would you choose if the Apolloniates were willing?”). The townsfolk pose their question as purely hypothetical. It is little wonder that Euenius feels cheated afterwards.

ὁ δὲ οὐκ ἀκηκοὼς τὸ θεοπρόπιον εἵλετο, εἰπὼν ὅτι εἰ δοθεῖεν αὐτῷ ἀγροί τινες κάλλιστοι ὄντες τῶν ἐν τῇ Ἀπολλωνίᾳ, καὶ οἴκησις πρὸς τούτοις, ἣν ᾔδει καλλίστην οὖσαν τῶν ἐν πόλει, τὸ λοιπὸν ἀμήνιτος ἄν εἴη, καὶ αὕτη ἡ δίκη ἂν ἀποχρῴη. καὶ ὁ μὲν ταῦτα ἔλεγεν, οἱ δὲ πάρεδροι εἶπον ὑπολαβόντες, 'Εὐήνιε, ταύτην τὴν δίκην Ἀπολλωνιᾶται τῆς ἐκτυφλώσεως ἐκτίνουσι κατὰ θεοπρόπια τὰ γενόμενα.'

And he, not having heard the prophecy, made a choice, saying that if some fields were given to him, which were the finest in Apollonia, and a house in addition to these, which he knew to be the finest of those in the city, he would not be angry in the future and this compensation would be sufficient. And he was saying this, and those sitting by answering him said, “Euenius, the Apolloniates pay this compensation for your blinding according to the prophecies which have come to be.”

εἰ δοθεῖεν … ἂν ἀποχρῴη – more realism as Euenius keeps adding things, much like someone who has not had time to think things through: “some fields … very fine … the finest in Apollonia … and a house … on top of these … which I know to be very fine … the finest in the city …”

τῶν ποιηθέντων – a euphemism for the blinding of Euenius. If they actually used such words, the townsfolk were playing down what happened to him.

“Εὐήνιε … τὰ γενόμενα.” – the change to direct speech after the long sequence of reported speech startles the audience in much the same way as Euenius must have been taken aback when the agents’ voices changed from sympathetic to double-crossing.

ὁ μὲν δὴ πρὸς ταῦτα δεινὰ ἐποιεῖτο, ἐντεῦθεν πυθόμενος τὸν πάντα λόγον, ὡς ἐξαπατηθείς· οἱ δὲ διδόασιν αὐτῷ ἃ εἵλετο. καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα αὐτίκα ἔμφυτον μαντικὴν εἶχεν ὥστε καὶ ὀνομαστὸς γενέσθαι.

Indeed he was indignant at these things, after he found out the whole story, feeling that he had been cheated; but they gave to him what he had chosen. And immediately after this he had a naturally-inspired prophetic power and as a result he became famous.

ὡς ἐξαπατηθείς – “feeling that he had been cheated.”

ἃ εἵλετο – the oracle also said that Euenius had to think the offer was fair when he made his choice. That is not repeated here, but we should assume that the conditions laid down by the oracle were met.

ἔμφυτον μαντικὴν – “a naturally-inspired power of prophecy,” as opposed to the same power acquired by education in the technicalities of signs and omens.

Suppliants A

ὁ μὲν Πακτύης, δείσας τοὺς Πέρσας, ᾤχετο φεύγων εἰς Κύμην· ὁ δὲ Μαζάρης ἔπεμπεν εἰς τὴν Κύμην ἀγγέλους, ἐκδιδόναι κελεύων Πακτύην. οἱ δὲ Κυμαῖοι ἔγνωσαν συμβουλῆς πέρι εἰς θεὸν τὸν ἐν Βραγχίδαις ἀναφέρειν. ἦν γὰρ αὐτόθι μαντεῖον ἐκ παλαιοῦ ἱδρυμένον, ᾧ Ἴωνές τε πάντες καὶ Αἰολεῖς εἰώθεσαν χρῆσθαι. πέμψαντες οὖν οἱ Κυμαῖοι θεοπρόπους ἠρώτων ὁποῖόν τι περὶ Πακτύην ποιοῦντες θεοῖς μέλλοιεν χαριεῖσθαι. ἐπερωτῶσι δὲ αὐτοῖς ταῦτα χρηστήριον ἐγένετο ἐκδιδόναι Πακτύην τοῖς Πέρσαις.

Pactyes, fearing the Persians, went and fled to Cyme; and Mazares sent messengers to Cyme, ordering them to give up Pactyes. But the Cymaeans decided to refer to the god at Branchidae for advice. For there was an oracle there established long ago, which all the Ionians and the Aeolians were accustomed to consult. So the Cymaeans sent consultants to ask what they could do concerning Pactyes so that they might please the gods. When they asked this, an oracle came telling them to give up Pactyes to the Persians.

Πακτύης – Pactyes was a Lydian who had tried to organise a revolt against the Persian king, Cyrus, after the latter had conquered Lydia. Cyrus sent an army against him, and he was forced to flee.

δείσας τοὺς Πέρσας – because he had organised the failed revolt.

ᾤχετο φεύγων – “went and fled.”

Κύμην – Cyme Map of the Aegean showing Cyme (Kyme).was on the west coast of Asia Minor and would eventually fall to the Persians.

ὁ δὲ Μαζάρης – Mazares was a Median general who defected to the Persians after Media fell to Cyrus. He is acting here as an agent of the Persian king.

ἔγνωσαν – “decided,” not a meaning of γιγνώσκω used for GCSE Greek Language.

θεὸν τὸν ἐν Βραγχίδαις – The god was Apollo; The ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Branchidae.and impressive ruins still remain at Branchidae of the temple mentioned here.

Ἴωνές…καὶ Αἰολεῖς – the Ionians and the Aeolians were the main ethnic Greek peoples who lived on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor. The importance of the oracle is stressed by the fact both of these large groups visited it, all of them (πάντες), and by its age (ἐκ παλαιοῦ).

Ταῦτα δὲ ὡς ἤκουσαν οἱ Κυμαῖοι ὡρμῶντο ἐκδιδόναι· ὁρμωμένου δὲ τοῦ πλήθους, Ἀριστόδικος, ἀνὴρ τῶν ἀστῶν δόκιμος, ἔσχε μὴ ποιῆσαι ταῦτα τοὺς Κυμαίους, ἀπιστῶν τε τῷ χρησμῷ, καὶ δοκῶν τοὺς θεοπρόπους οὐ λέγειν ἀληθῶς· εἰς ὅ, τὸ δεύτερον περὶ Πακτύου ἐπερησόμενοι, ᾖσαν ἄλλοι θεοπρόποι ὧν καὶ Ἀριστόδικος ἦν.

When the Cymaeans heard this they were eager to hand him over; but although most were eager, Aristodicus, a well-respected man among the citizens, prevented the Cymaeans from doing this, since he did not trust the oracle and he thought the consultants were not telling the truth; until other consultants went, of which Aristodicus was also one, to ask again a second time about Pactyes.

ὁρμωμένου δὲ τοῦ πλήθους – “although the majority were eager,” the participle can be translated with “although” even without καίπερ.

ἔσχε μὴ ποιῆσαι – “withheld (the Cymaeans) from doing (this).” Verbs expressing prevention, or denial, doubt, refusal, etc. are usually followed by the negative μή which must not be translated in English.

ἀπιστῶν τε … δοκῶν… – Aristodicus is very sceptical. Not only does he not trust the oracle, but he also thinks the consultants are lying. His suspicions turn out to have some grounds, but are wide of the mark. The participles ἀπιστῶν and δοκῶν have causal force, i.e. “since he did not trust….”

εἰς ὅ – “until,” lit. “until which (time).”

τὸ δεύτερον – adverbial, “a second time.”

ἄλλοι θεοπρόποι – Aristodicus addresses both his concerns. He replaces the previous consultants, in case they had been lying, and he attends in person – a point emphasised by the short phrase καὶ Ἀριστόδικος ἦν – to find out for himself what the oracle has to say.

Suppliants B

Ἀφικομένων δὲ αὐτῶν εἰς Βραγχίδας, ἐχρηστηριάζετο ἐκ πάντων Ἀριστόδικος ἐπερωτῶν τάδε, “Ὦναξ, ἦλθε παρ’ ἡμᾶς ἱκέτης Πακτύης ὁ Λυδός, φεύγων θάνατον βίαιον πρὸς Περσῶν· οἱ δὲ αὐτὸν ἐξαιτοῦνται προεῖναι Κυμαίους κελεύοντες. ἡμεῖς δέ, δειμαίνοντες τὴν Περσῶν δύναμιν, τὸν ἱκέτην εἰς τόδε οὐ τετολμήκαμεν ἐκδιδόναι, πρὶν ἂν τὸ ἀπὸ σοῦ ἡμῖν δηλωθῇ ἀκριβῶς ὁπότερα ποιῶμεν.”

When they arrived at Branchidae, Aristodicus consulted on behalf of them all, asking this: “O Lord, Pactyes the Lydian has come to us as a suppliant, fleeing a violent death at the hands of the Persians; but they are demanding him, ordering the Cymaeans to give him up. And we, although we fear the power of the Persians, have not dared to give up the suppliant so far, until your exact wishes are clear to us what we should do.”

ἐκ πάντων – “on behalf of them all,” i.e. Aristodicus had been chosen (or appointed himself) as spokesman.

Ὦναξ… – despite his mistrust, and what he eventually does, Aristodicus addresses the oracle in a respectful tone.

ἦλθε παρ’ ἡμᾶς ἱκέτης – the crux of the matter is stated first. Essentially, the issue is about how to treat any suppliant, the specifics of this particular case are of secondary importance.

θάνατον βίαιον – βίαιον is almost irrelevant, as any death would presumably be bad for Pactyes, but Aristodicus is highlighting the dire fate awaiting the Lydian refugee if the Cymaeans carry out the oracle’s command – he wants to ensure the oracle knows the consequences of its pronouncement.

δειμαίνοντες – another concessive use of the participle, “even though we are afraid….”

οὐ τετολμήκαμεν – the question remains, since they fear the Persians and the oracle has told them to, why haven’t they dared to hand over Pactyes? There must be a custom of protecting suppliants which is holding them back. The oracle’s point will be that the Cymaeans should have had more belief in this custom than having to seek confirmation from an oracle to uphold it.

τὸ ἀπὸ σοῦ – “your wishes,” literally “the thing which comes from you”.

ἀκριβῶς – Aristodicus needs to hear the exact instructions, to avoid misinterpretation.

ὁ μὲν ταῦτα ἐπηρώτα· ὁ δὲ θεὸς αὖθις τὸν αὐτὸν χρησμὸν ἔφαινε, κελεύων ἐκδιδόναι Πακτύην τοῖς Πέρσαις. πρὸς ταῦτα ὁ Ἀριστόδικος ἐκ προνοίας ἐποίει τάδε· περιιὼν τὸν νεὼν κύκλῳ ἐξῄρει τοὺς στρουθούς, καὶ ἄλλα ὅσα ἦν νενεοττευμένα ὀρνίθων γένη ἐν τῷ νεῴ.

He asked this; but the god revealed the same oracle again, giving orders to give up Pactyes to the Persians. In response to this, Aristodicus on purpose did the following; going around the temple in a circle he removed the sparrows, and as many other kinds of birds as had hatched in the temple.

ἐκδιδόναι Πακτύην τοῖς Πέρσαις – the exact phrase used for the original pronouncement. After Aristodicus’ detailed explanation of the situation, this repetition comes as something of a shock. This unchanging oracular response is emphasised by αὖθις and τὸν αὐτὸν χρησμὸν.

ἐκ προνοίας – “on purpose.” His actions now contrast sharply with the courtesy he initially showed towards the oracle.

ἄλλα ὅσα … γένη – the normal order in Greek is ἄλλα γένη ὅσα, “other types, as many as….”

ποιοῦντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ταῦτα, φωνὴ ἐκ τοῦ ἀδύτου ἐγένετο λέγουσα τάδε, “Ἀνοσιώτατε ἀνθρώπων, τί τάδε τολμᾷς ποιεῖν; τοὺς ἱκέτας μου ἐκ τοῦ νεὼ κεραΐζεις;” Ἀριστόδικος δὲ οὐκ ἀπορήσας πρὸς ταῦτα εἶπεν, “Ὦναξ, αὐτὸς μὲν οὕτω τοῖς ἱκέταις βοηθεῖς, Κυμαίους δὲ κελεύεις τὸν ἱκέτην ἐκδιδόναι.” ὁ δὲ θεὸς αὖθις ἠμείψατο τοῖσδε, “Ναὶ κελεύω, ἵνα γε ἀσεβήσαντες θᾶττον ἀπόλησθε· ὡς μὴ τὸ λοιπὸν περὶ ἱκετῶν ἐκδόσεως ἔλθητε ἐπὶ τὸ χρηστήριον.”

While he was doing this, a voice came from the sanctuary saying this: “Most unholy of men, how do you dare to do this? Are you destroying the suppliants of my temple?” Aristodicus, not lost for words, said this, “O Lord, you yourself thus help suppliants, but you order the Cymaeans to give up their suppliant.” But the god answered again with these words, “Yes I order you, so that having acted in an unholy way you might die sooner; so that in the future you might not come to the oracle about giving up suppliants.”

Ἀνοσιώτατε ἀνθρώπων – the superlative with the genitive (“most wicked of men”) highlights the enormity of Aristodicus’ crime. However, the reaction is just what he was aiming for – he wanted the oracle to realise how wicked it was to suggest Pactyes be handed over to the Persians.

τοὺς ἱκέτας μου ἐκ τοῦ νεὼ κεραΐζεις; – a very serious charge: Aristodicus is destroying (κεραΐζεις) suppliants (τοὺς ἱκέτας) of the god (μου) in a holy place (τοῦ νεὼ). The charge is posed as a question because the oracle can scarcely believe the sacrilegious nature of Aristodicus’ actions.