This story cracked me up. They say that humor doesn’t really translate well over the ages but this story does. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be funny but just imagine you’re trying on the “Bachelorette” and you do what this guy does. Do you think you’d win?


The History by Herodotus – Story of Hippocleides ( 6.126-6.130)

126. Then in the next generation after this, Cleisthenes the despot of Sikyon exalted the family, so that it became of much more note among the Hellenes than it had been formerly. For Cleisthenes the son of Arisonymos, the son of Myron, the son of Andreas, had a daughter whose name was Agariste; and as to her he formed a desire to find out the best man of all the Hellenes and to assign her to him in marriage. So when the Olympic games were being held and Cleisthenes was victor in them with a four-horse chariot, he caused a proclamation to be made, that whosoever of the Hellenes thought himself worthy to be the son-in-law of Cleisthenes should come on the sixtieth day, or before that if he would, to Sikyon; for Cleisthenes intended to conclude the marriage within a year, reckoning from the sixtieth day. Then all those of the Hellenes who had pride either in themselves or in their high descent, came as wooers, and for them Cleisthenes had a running-course and a wrestling-place made and kept them expressly for their use..

127. From Italy came Smindyrides the son of Hippocrates of Sybaris, who of all men on earth reached the highest point of luxury (now Sybaris at this time was in the height of its prosperity), and Damasos of Siris, the son of that Amyris who was called the Wise; these came from Italy: from the Ionian gulf came Amphimnestos the son of Epistrophos of Epidamnos, this man from the Ionian gulf: from Aitolia came Males, the brother of that Titormos who surpassed all the Hellenes in strength and who fled from the presence of men to the furthest extremities of the Aitolian land: from Peloponnesus, Leokedes the son of Pheidon the despot of the Argives, that Pheidon who established for the Peloponnesians the measures which they use, and who went beyond all other Hellenes in wanton insolence, since he removed from their place the presidents of the games appointed by the Eleians and himself presided over the games at Olympia,—his son, I say, and Amiantos the son of Lycurgos an Arcadian from Trapezus, and Laphanes an Azanian from the city of Paios, son of that Euphorion who (according to the story told in Arcadia) received the Dioscuroi as guests in his house and from thenceforth was wont to entertain all men who came, and Onomastos the son of Agaios of Elis; these, I say, came from Peloponnesus itself: from Athens came Megacles the son of that Alcmaion who went to Croesus, and besides him Hippocleides the son of Tisander, one who surpassed the other Athenians in wealth and in comeliness of form: from Eretria, which at that time was flourishing, came Lysanias, he alone from Euboea: from Thessalia came Diactorides of Crannon, one of the family of the Scopadai: and from the Molossians, Alcon.

128. So many in number did the wooers prove to be: and when these had come by the appointed day, Cleisthenes first inquired of their native countries and of the descent of each one, and then keeping them for a year he made trial continually both of their manly virtue and of their disposition, training and temper, associating both with each one separately and with the whole number together: and he made trial of them both by bringing out to bodily exercises those of them who were younger, and also especially in the common feast: for during all the time that he kept them he did everything that could be done, and at the same time he entertained them magnificently. Now it chanced that those of the wooers pleased him most who had come from Athens, and of these Hippocleides the son of Tisander was rather preferred, both by reason of manly virtues and also because he was connected by descent with the family of Kypselos at Corinth.

129. Then when the appointed day came for the marriage banquet and for Cleisthenes himself to declare whom he selected from the whole number, Cleisthenes sacrificed a hundred oxen and feasted both the wooers themselves and all the people of Sikyon; and when the dinner was over, the wooers began to vie with one another both in music and in speeches for the entertainment of the company; and as the drinking went forward and Hippocleides was very much holding the attention of the others, he bade the flute-player play for him a dance-measure; and when the flute-player did so, he danced: and it so befell that he pleased himself in his dancing, but Cleisthenes looked on at the whole matter with suspicion. Then Hippocleides after a certain time bade one bring in a table; and when the table came in, first he danced upon it Laconian figures, and then also Attic, and thirdly he planted his head upon the table and gesticulated with his legs. Cleisthenes meanwhile, when he was dancing the first and the second time, though he abhorred the thought that Hippocleides should now become his son-in-law, because of his dancing and his shamelessness, yet restrained himself, not desiring to break out in anger against him; but when he saw that he thus gesticulated with his legs, he was no longer able to restrain himself, but said: “Thou hast danced away thy marriage however, son of Tisander!” and Hippocleides answered and said: “Hippocleides cares not!”

130. and hence comes this saying. Then Cleisthenes caused silence to be made, and spoke to the company as follows: “Men who are wooers of my daughter, I commend you all, and if it were possible I would gratify you all, neither selecting one of you to be preferred, nor rejecting the remainder. Since however it is not possible, as I am deliberating about one maiden only, to act so as to please all, therefore to those of you who are rejected from this marriage I give as a gift a talent of silver to each one for the worthy estimation ye had of me, in that ye desired to marry from my house, and for the time of absence from your homes; and to the son of Alcmaion, Megacles, I offer my daughter Agariste in betrothal according to the customs of the Athenians.” Thereupon Megacles said that he accepted the betrothal, and so the marriage was determined by Cleisthenes.

Leave a Reply