. . . about the Samians I have spoken at greater length, because they have three works which are greater than any others that have been made by Hellenes . . . .
Translated by George C. Macaulay — our special project presenting the complete Herodotus with URLs for all of those people, places, events, and things which baffles and discourages modern readers.
Previously on Herodotus
58. This oracle they were not able to understand either then at first or when the Samians had arrived: for as soon as the Samians were putting in to Siphnos they sent one of their ships to bear envoys to the city: now in old times all ships were painted with red, and this was that which the Pythian prophetess was declaring beforehand to the Siphnians, bidding them guard against the “army of wood” and the “red-coloured herald.” The messengers accordingly came and asked the Siphnians to lend them ten talents; and as they refused to lend to them, the Samians began to lay waste their lands: so when they were informed of it, forthwith the Siphnians came to the rescue, and having engaged battle with them were defeated, and many of them were cut off by the Samians and shut out of the city; and the Samians after this imposed upon them a payment of a hundred talents.
59. Then from the men of Hermion they received by payment of money the island of Hydrea, which is near the coast of Peloponnese, and they gave it in charge to the Troizenians, but they themselves settled at Kydonia which is in Crete, not sailing thither for that purpose but in order to drive the Zakynthians out of the island. Here they remained and were prosperous for five years, so much so that they were the builders of the temples which are now existing in Kydonia, and also of the house of Dictyna. In the sixth year however the Eginetans together with the Cretans conquered them in a sea-fight and brought them to slavery; and they cut off the prows of their ships, which were shaped like boars, and dedicated them in the temple of Athene in Egina. This the Eginetans did because they had a grudge against the Samians; for the Samians had first made expedition against Egina, when Amphicrates was king in Samos, and had done much hurt to the Eginetans and suffered much hurt also from them. Such was the cause of this event:
60, and about the Samians I have spoken at greater length, because they have three works which are greater than any others that have been made by Hellenes: first a passage beginning from below and open at both ends, dug through a mountain not less than a hundred and fifty fathoms in height; the length of the passage is seven furlongs and the height and breadth each eight feet, and throughout the whole of it another passage has been dug twenty cubits in depth and three feet in breadth, through which the water is conducted and comes by the pipes to the city, brought from an abundant spring: and the designer of this work was a Megarian, Eupalinos the son of Naustrophos. This is one of the three; and the second is a mole in the sea about the harbour, going down to a depth of as much as twenty fathoms; and the length of the mole is more than two furlongs. The third work which they have executed is a temple larger than all the other temples of which we know. Of this the first designer was Rhoicos the son of Philes, a native of Samos. For this reason I have spoken at greater length of the Samians.
61. Now while Cambyses the son of Cyrus was spending a long time in Egypt and had gone out of his right mind, there rose up against him two brothers, Magians, of whom the one had been left behind by Cambyses as caretaker of his household. This man, I say, rose up against him perceiving that the occurrence of the death of Smerdis was being kept secret, and that there were but few of the Persians who were aware of it, while the greater number believed without doubt that he was still alive. Therefore he endeavoured to obtain the kingdom, and he formed his plan as follows:—he had a brother (that one who, as I said, rose up with him against Cambyses), and this man in form very closely resembled Smerdis the son of Cyrus, whom Cambyses had slain, being his own brother. He was like Smerdis, I say, in form, and not only so but he had the same name, Smerdis. Having persuaded this man that he would manage everything for him, the Magian Patizeithes brought him and seated him upon the royal throne: and having so done he sent heralds about to the various provinces, and among others one to the army in Egypt, to proclaim to them that they must obey Smerdis the son of Cyrus for the future instead of Cambyses.
62. So then the other heralds made this proclamation, and also the one who was appointed to go to Egypt, finding Cambyses and his army at Agbatana in Syria, stood in the midst and began to proclaim that which had been commanded to him by the Magian. Hearing this from the herald, and supposing that the herald was speaking the truth and that he had himself been betrayed by Prexaspes, that is to say, that when Prexaspes was sent to kill Smerdis he had not done so, Cambyses looked upon Prexaspes and said: “Prexaspes, was it thus that thou didst perform for me the thing which I gave over to thee to do?” and he said: “Master, the saying is not true that Smerdis thy brother has risen up against thee, nor that thou wilt have any contention arising from him, either great or small: for I myself, having done that which thou didst command me to do, buried him with my own hands. If therefore the dead have risen again to life, then thou mayest expect that Astyages also the Mede will rise up against thee; but if it is as it was beforetime, there is no fear now that any trouble shall spring up for you, at least from him. Now therefore I think it well that some should pursue after the herald and examine him, asking from whom he has come to proclaim to us that we are to obey Smerdis as king.”
– Herodotus, Book III
Herodotus made his living by being interesting. In a world where most people did not read and could not afford to buy a book even if they could, they would pay to listen to Herodotus recite from his books. They would not pay to be bored. In that world, the names that populate his stories would have some general familiarity to his audience. Their obscurity to us is a barrier that this series seeks to break down.
Because of lack of detail in maps as embedded images, we are providing links instead, enabling readers to view them full screen.