Herodotus – The Histories, Book 3, “Thalia”: Affairs in Samos (39-59, 120-125, 142-149)

39. While Cambyses was in Egypt, Spartans sent a force to Samos against Polycrates. Polycrates had conquered the island with his 2 brothers but later he killed one & sent the other into exile. Polycrates made with Amasis & he became more powerful. The whole Greek world took notice. His fleet had 100 penteconters & had 1000 bowmen. The whole Greek world took notice. He plundered foes & friends alike, & captured islands & mainland cities. He defeated the Lesbian fleet & enslaved many Milesians who were forced to dig the moat around the castle on Samos.
40. Amasis took notice of Polycrates & wrote to him. His advice was that in order not to tempt fate with all his good luck, he ought to take his most valuable possession & throw it away.
41. Polycrates took the advice took a gold & emerald signet ring & threw it off the ship. He wept over it.
42. 5-6 days later, a fisherman caught a fish fit for a king & presented it to Polycrates. At dinner, Polycrates cut the fish open & found the signet in its belly. Polycrates wrote to Amasis about the matter.
43. Once Amasis read the letter, he realized that Polycrates was doomed because he was doing everything right. He dissolved the friendship in order not to suffer the same fate as Polycrates.
44. Exiled Samians asked the Spartans to fight Polycrates. Polycrates allied with Cambyses before his invasion into Egypt, gave him ships. He manned them with those who were politically annoying, saying he could have the men so long as he never lets them go back home to Samos.
45. Some say the Samians never reached Egypt but that they got to Carpathus & decided not to go further. Others say they did get to Egypt but left & went back to Samos. Then Polycrates engaged them in a naval battle, lost but defeated them on land, so they sailed off to Sparta. They probably couldn’t defeat Polycrates alone because why would they need the Spartans later? He probably wouldn’t have been beaten by a force so small.
46. When the exiled Samians got to Sparta, the Spartans didn’t seem very interested in them through their long-winded explanation. A shorter one got them the Spartan help they wanted.
47. The Spartans prepared to attack Samos in order to punish those who stole presents they’d given Croesus & Amasis.
48. Corinth pitched in against Samos. A generation before, Periander had taken 300 boys from Corcyraeans nobles & sent them to the Lydian king, Alyattes, for Eunuchs. Those transporting them stopped in Samos when the Samians took the boys into the Temple of Diana where the Corinthians were forbidden from taking suppliants. So, the Corinthians decided to surround the temple & stave them out. The Samians invented a festival to bring food into the temple to feed those inside.
49. Eventually, the Corinthian transporters gave up. The Samians sent the kids back to Corcyra. If this grudge hadn’t continued long after Periander’s death, they would probably have gone back to being friends.
50. After Periander killed his wife, Melissa, another problem happened. She’d given him 2 sons. Later, they visited her father, Procles of Epidaurus, who told them that it was Periander who had killed their mother. The older son didn’t really pay attention but the younger son, Lycophron, was upset & when they went back to Corinth, he refused to speak to Periander because he considered him a murderer. Periander kicked him out.
51. Periander asked the elder son what his brother’s problem was. It took him a while but he got to the point of the grandfather telling him about Periander & Melissa. Periander wouldn’t give in so he sent messengers out, threatening anyone who harbored his son.
52. Periander decreed anyone caught even talking to Lycophron would be fined. No one would talk to him, forcing him to sleep outside. Periander felt bad & asked if it were better to sulk or take his crown when it was time. He said he suffered more in the matter than Lycophron. The son said nothing except that Periander owed the gods some form of penance. Periander sent him to Corcyra. He declared war on Procles & became king of Epidaurus.
53. Periander was getting too old to rule. & sent a messenger to his son. Lycophron refused to come home. Periander sent Lycophron’s sister to ask him to come home & rule. He said that as long as Periander was in Corinth, he would not go to Corinth. Periander said that he would move to Corcyra if Lycophron became king of Corinth. He agreed. But as soon as this became public, the Corcyraeans heard about it & killed Lycophron to keep Periander away. This made Periander take vengeance on them.
54. The Spartans showed up to Samos with a large army & besieged it. They stormed the tower by the sea but Polycrates & co. beat them back. The Spartans overpowered them.
55. 2 Spartans, Archias & Lycopâs, the bravest of them, stormed the city but the rest of the Spartans were too scared. The 2 were killed & Samos remained free. Samia held the 2 p as brave men, even though they were enemies.
56. The Spartans laid siege for 40 days, made no progress, got bored & went home. An unbelievable story told was Polycrates bribed them with lead painted as good to get them to leave.
57. The Samians fighting against Polycrates saw the Spartans leaving, so they left for Siphnos, when it was doing well, with gold & silver mines. They consulted the Oracle about what to do with the money.
58. The Oracle’s answer was confusing. Apparently, she’d warned them about Samian pirates. They gave a huge amount of money to the Oracle. Later, they fought the pirates & lost. They had to pay them lots of money in ransom to regain their captured citizens.
59. With the money, the Samian pirates bought the island of Hydrea from the Hermionians. They entrusted it to the Troezenians & went on to Crete to found Cydonia. They did well in Cydonia for 5 years building the city with temples but were attacked by the Eginetans & Amphicrates waged war on them.
60. We focused on Samos because they built 3 of the greatest works the world has ever seen. One was a tunnel several hundred feet underground, going nearly a mile long. This was run alongside by an aqueduct of the same length. Another was a massive breakwater 1/4 around the harbor. The other was the largest temple in the world.
120. Around the time Cambyses was sick, there was a Persian governor of Sardis named Oroetus. He’d never had any run-ins with Polycrates but he had a reason to capture & kill him. He was hanging out in the king’s palace with another Persian, a satrap named Dascyleium. Oroetus was accused of being soft for having Samos so close to him yet he never bothered to conquer it to make the empire larger. Oroetus took this insult to heart & became determined to defeat Polycrates & conquer Samos.
121. Another version of events says that Oroetus sent a messenger to Samos to make an unspecified request but Polycrates ignored it, pissing him off enough to make him want to conquer Samos.
122. Oroetus sent a messenger to Polycrates, knowing that he intentions of Ionian & island conquest. The message said – I hear you have big plans. We can help each other out. Come over & pick up some money to fund your expeditions. Cambyses has it in for me & if your conquests can distract him in the sea, I can fight him in Lydia.
123. Polycrates was over the moon, mostly because he wanted the money. He sent his messenger, Maeandrius, who made an offering at the temple of Juno. Oroetus learned that a messenger was coming to check out the money. He filled 8 chests with stones & put a thin layer of gold on top. Maeandrius saw this & went back to Samos happy.
124. Polycrates was warned by friend, advisors & soothsayers not to go in person. His daughter had a prophetic dream about it. She tried to stop him & he threatened to condemn her to be a spinster.
125. Polycrates took off to see Oroetus with friends. No one’s sure how Oroetus killed him but afterwards, he affixed him to a cross. His entourage was allowed to leave but many of his servants were enslaved. That’s the bitter end of Polycrates that Amasis had tried to warn him of.

142. Maeandrius, Polycrates’s deputy, became ruler. He resolved to be a just ruler but it was not to be. Once he learned of Polycrates’s death, he had an altar to Jove built & addressed the public – “You all know that Polycrates had passed his power on to me. I’ve never been one to lord it over people & I intended to give you all equal rights. I only claim a little bit of money for myself & the role of priest for me & my descendants.” After this, voices came from the crowd, saying he was a charlatan & a corrupt official.
143. Maeandrius realized that if he didn’t hold tyrannical power, someone else would & it would end in chaos. So, he had the man in the crowd & his followers imprisoned. Afterwards, Maeandrius became sick & his brother Lycarêtis, mad a move to become king. He killed all the prisoners.
144. The Persians tried to put Syloson, Polycrates’s exiled brother, back on the throne. No one in Samos resisted. So, Maeandrius & his crew negotiated a play with the people to leave the island.
145. Maeandrius’s brother, Charilaüs, had been in prison & saw that the Persians were trying to exert authority in Samos. He said he had to speak with Maendrius & they left him to it. When they met, Charilaüs gave him hell for leaving Samos so easily. If Maeandrius wasn’t going to assert himself, at least he could let Charilaüs use his men to try.
146. Maeandrius was fine with that plan, mostly because he wanted to stick it to Syloson. Also, it was to piss off the Persians off about Samos. If the Persians had difficulty, they’d be upset but he knew of a secret escape route under the city to the sea. Maeandrius left & Charilaüs opened the gates to fight the Persians. Most prominent Persians died but their army defeated the mercenaries. They drove them to the citadel.
147. Otanes, the Persian general ignored any orders that Darius gave him not to kill or enslave Samians but only to install Syloson. He had men & boys killed anywhere they were found.
148. Maeandrius left for Sparta & gave them all the money he’d taken from Samos. However, the King’s son, Cleomenes saw all of them & refused any of it since it was seen that a Samian stranger was trying to corrupt Sparta. Maeandrius was asked to leave.
149. The Persians were able to install Syloson & strip the place of all its men. Otanes encouraged “repeopling” the place.

Author: knowit68

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