Posts tagged Ancient History

Over My Shoulder # 49: Sic Semper

Here’s the rules.

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. This is from my class readings, Herodotus (c. 449 BCE), The Histories (trans. G.C. Macaulay and Donald Lateiner); I read it during one of my study jags over at The Coffee Cat. It’s Herodotus’s version of the end of the life of Cyrus the Great, the first King of Kings of the Persian Empire. At this time in his life, Cyrus had gained supreme power over the Persians, taken power over the old Median Empire, and set out on decades of large-scale conquest, subjugating nearly all of the peoples in Asia Minor, the Levant, and Mesopotamia. He then went with his army to the river Aras, in the hopes of expanding his conquest onto the Central Asian plains.

201. When [Babylon] also had been subdued by Cyrus, he desired to bring the Massagetai into subjection to himself. This nation is reputed to be both great and warlike, and to dwell towards the East and the sunrise, beyond the river Araxes and over against the Issedonians. Some say that this nation is of the Scythian race.

. . . 205. Now the ruler of the Massagetai was a woman, who was queen after the death of her husband, and her name was Tomyris. To her Cyrus sent and wooed her, pretending that he desired to have her for his wife. Tomyris, understanding that he was wooing not herself but rather the kingdom of the Massagetai, rejected his approaches. Cyrus after this, as he made no progress by craft, marched to the Araxes and campaigned openly against the Massagetai, forming bridges of boats over the river for his army to cross, and building towers upon the vessels which gave them safe passage across the river.

[. . . The captive king Croesus advised Cyrus to leave behind part of his army, along with preparations for a feast with strong wine, as a snare for the Massagetai warriors, who had no experience with Persian drinks.]

211. . . . After this when Cyrus and the sound part of the army of the Persians had marched back to the Araxes, and those unfit for fighting had been left behind, then one-third of the army of the Massagetai attacked and proceeded to kill, not without resistance, those whom the army of Cyrus had left behind. Seeing the feast that was set forth, when they had overcome their enemies they lay down and feasted, and being satiated with food and wine they went to sleep. Then the Persians came upon them and slew many of them, and took alive many more even than they slew, and among these the son of the queen Tomyris, who was leading the army of the Massagetai; and his name was Sparagapises.

212. She then, when she heard that which had come to pass with the army and also the things concerning her son, sent a herald to Cyrus and said: Cyrus, insatiable of blood, do not celebrate too much what has come to pass, namely because with that fruit of the vine, with which you fill yourselves and become so mad that as the wine descends into your bodies, wicked words float up upon its stream,—because setting a snare, I say, with such a drug as this you overcame my son and not by valor in fight. Now therefore hear this my word, giving you good advice:—Restore to me my son and depart from this land without penalty, triumphant over a third part of the army of the Massagetai. If you shall not do so, I swear to you by the Sun, who is lord of the Massagetai, that surely I will give you your fill of blood, blood-thirsty though you are.

213. These words were reported to him, but Cyrus disregarded them; and the son of the queen Tomyris, Sparagapises, when he sobered up and he realized his plight, entreated Cyrus that he might be loosed from his chains and gained his request. So soon as his hands were free, he put himself to death. 214. He then ended his life in this manner; but Tomyris, as Cyrus did not listen to her, gathered together all her power and joined battle with Cyrus. This battle I judge to have been the fiercest of all the battles fought by Barbarians,[1] and I am informed that it happened thus:—first, it is said, they stood apart and shot at one another, and afterwards when their arrows were all shot away, they fell upon one another and engaged in close combat with their spears and daggers; and so they continued their fight with one another for a long time, and neither side would flee; but at last the Massagetai got the better in the fight. The greater part of the Persian army was destroyed there upon the spot, and Cyrus himself died there, after he had reigned twenty-nine years. Then Tomyris filled a skin with human blood and had search made among the Persian dead for the corpse of Cyrus. When she found it, she let his head down into the skin and doing outrage to the corpse she said this over it: Though I yet live and have overcome you in fight, nevertheless you have destroyed me by taking my son with craft. I nevertheless according to my threat will give you your fill of blood. There are many tales told about the end of Cyrus, but this one is to my mind the most worthy of belief.

— Herodotus (c. 449 BCE), The Histories, Book I §§ 212-213. (Trans. G.C. Macaulay and Donald Lateiner.)

  1. [1] [Sic. By Barbarians, Herodotus simply means nations that do not speak Greek. —CJ]

Wednesday Lazy Linking

  • Another flabbergastingly stupid comment from Jim Pasco. Dr. Q, Gangsters in Blue (2010-10-18). Since the issue of filming police became a hot topic in the mainstream press (see here), I’ve been very interested in hearing the arguments that police use to justify placing limits on the right to record cops. To me, the idea that people ought to be allowed to film police... (Linked Monday 2010-10-18.)

  • Boofrickityhoo. Unqualified Offerings (2010-10-18). "Now, I do realize that there might be economic repercussions if bankers are unable to recover some of their losses. Fortunately, I have a solution: They can sell their own organs to raise cash." (Linked Monday 2010-10-18.)

  • The Explosion of Pink. Rachel, Our Bodies Our Blog (2010-10-12). It’s October, so the explosion of pink products at the grocery and other stores shouldn’t surprise us: it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the time of the year when we’re asked to eradicate breast cancer by buying pink-ribboned  products. Over the years, many women’s health activists have criticized the pink... (Linked Monday 2010-10-18.)

  • Primary Sources for USA vs George Donnelly. George Donnelly, Anarchoblogs in English (2010-10-18). As promised, here are my primary sources for the short film United States of America vs George Donnelly: How US Marshals Framed a Peaceful Photographer. I apologize for the delay. I’m working on getting even more information and hope to release it soon. Here is the raw video footage from... (Linked Monday 2010-10-18.)

  • Kathryn Schulz on Wrongness. Igor Kandyba, FiveBooks (2010-10-17). The author of Being Wrong says punditry is conducive to bombast and certainty, both major contributors to wrongness. You are not more likely to be right if you’re on the left, or on the right. ‘If you think like a fox you’re more likely to have a sophisticated, nuanced way of thinking.... (Linked Monday 2010-10-18.)

  • Drug cops smash into wrong house, terrorize elderly couple - Chicago Breaking News. www.chicagobreakingnews.com (2010-10-18). Andrij and Anna Jakymec were startled by a late night raid on their home by Cook County sheriff's police gang crimes narcotics unit officers executing a search warrant. (E. Jason Wambsgans/ Chicago Tribune) Cook County sheriff's police on a drug raid smashed into a Southwest Side house late Thursday night, (Linked Monday 2010-10-18.)

  • Intellect as Evasion. Mel, BroadSnark (2010-10-14). Normally, I like Jay Smooth.  But this video really irritated me. I understand why people are critical of the anti-intellectualism displayed by right wing populists who seem so disdainful of reading books, processing facts, or critical thinking of any kind.  But it amazes me when otherwise observant people can’t see... (Linked Monday 2010-10-18.)

  • To Protect and Serve. Daily Brickbats (2010-10-19). Cops are here to keep us safe. (Cont'd.) By running red lights, crashing into bicyclists, and leaving the scene of the accident. (Linked Tuesday 2010-10-19.)

  • Little Miss Muffet. Jill, I Blame The Patriarchy (2010-10-19). “Here is my question,” announces blamer JenniferRuth. “Can arachnophobia be blamed on the patriarchy?” The answer is yes! Patriarchy is the gnarly firmament of dominant culture, and nothing may exist outside it; therefore absolutely everything can be blamed on it. This, friends, is the beauty of patriarchy-blaming. Whenever one encounters,... (Linked Tuesday 2010-10-19.)

  • Letters Respond to Lancet Home Birth Editorial With Feminist Perspective. Rachel, Our Bodies Our Blog (2010-10-19). In July, The Lancet published an editorial, “Home Births: Proceed with Caution,” in which the editors discussed the apparent safety of home birth for most low-risk women, contradictory or low-quality evidence on infant outcomes, and the recent, controversial Wax meta-analysis. Perhaps most likely to cause feminist double-takes was the following... (Linked Tuesday 2010-10-19.)

  • Civic Engagement is for Suckers. Kevin Carson, Center for a Stateless Society (2010-10-19). I frequently encounter “progressives” who argue that political involvement is the only way to achieve significant change. Refusal to participate in the process is “defeatist” and “irresponsible.” This, apparently, is what passes for gritty realism on much of the “progressive” Left. That argument is pessimistic beyond belief. The events of... (Linked Tuesday 2010-10-19.)

  • So, I got married… Anarchoblogs in English (2010-10-20). In steampunk attire, of course. Mazel tov, Db0! (Linked Wednesday 2010-10-20.)

  • Molly’sBlog 2010-10-17 17:35:00. mollymew, Anarchoblogs in English (2010-10-17). AMERICAN ANARCHIST MOVEMENT MINNEAPOLIS:RNC (FOUR) AGREE TO PLEA BARGAIN:This the latest from the Defend the RNC 8 group. The four remaining defendants will likely enter a plea bargain next Tuesday. What this means the future will tell. Here's the story.@@@@@@@@@@Important Update on the RNC 8 Case: New Hearing Tuesday 10/19... (Linked Wednesday 2010-10-20.)

  • Dissent in the age of Obama. Phil Dickens, Anarchoblogs in English (2010-10-05). Following on from Sunday's post on Barack Obama's appalling civil liberties record, I have come across an interesting opinion piece by Cindy Sheehan. It seems that Obama's line of dissidents carries echoes of the Watergate Scandal and even the Red Scare. Her thoughts can be found over on Al Jazeera;Recently,... (Linked Wednesday 2010-10-20.)

  • Genes are left-wing. Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing (2010-10-13). Writing in the Guardian, clinical psychologist Oliver James claims that genetics has turned into a "left wing" science, because it has failed to identify any innate, genetic reasons why some people are winners and others are losers -- suggesting that, instead, it's society's fault that some people end up on... (Linked Wednesday 2010-10-20.)