Herodotus – The Histories, Book 5, “Terpischore” [1-28] – The Thracians

  1. The Persians that Darius left back in Europe had Megabazus as their general. They reduced the people of Perinthius first. The Perinthians had been subdued before by the Paeaonians. An Oracle told the Paeaonians to fight the Perinthians. They were to fight only when challenged, otherwise, they weren’t to risk a fight. They fought in the manners – man-to-man, horse-to-horse & dog-to-dog. The Perinthians won in 2 ways but being so joyful about that exposed them & the Paeaonians annihilated the Perinthian army.
  2. Perinthians were overcome by Persian numbers. Megabazus led the army through Thrace subduing every city he came across because his orders were to conquer all of Thrace.
  3. The Thracian people are the most powerful people, except the Indians. If they had one ruler, they’d beat any enemy anywhere. But they could never unit, which was their main weakness.
  4. We’ve already talked about the Getae. The Trausi look like other Thracians but have interesting customs at birth & death. When a baby is born, the family sit around him & cry about all the trouble he’ll have in life. When someone in the family dies, the family laugh & rejoice at his wonderful life & how he’s now free from any suffering.
  5. Thracians who live above the Crestonaeans have these customs… Each man has several wives. When the man dies, the wives appeal to his friends to say which one of them he loved the most. The one chosen as the most loved  is killed by her next of kin & buried with her husband.
  6. Other Thracians sell their children to traders. They don’t watch their maidens but leave them free. But they watch their wives very closely. Brides are bought from their parents for tons of money. Tattoos are a sign of high status while having none is a sign of low status. It’s a sign of honor to be idle. War & plunder are of the highest glory.
  7. They worship Mars, Bacchus & Dian. However, the kings also worship Mercury, thinking they’re his descendants.
  8. Wealthy men are buried after the body is laid out for 3 days. A victim is killed & eaten at a feast. & then they either burn or bury the body. They hold funereal games & single combat winners get the biggest prize.
  9. No one can say for sure who lives above this area. I’ve heard the Sigynnae live above the Ister. They say that they live Medes & have small horses they can only use for chariots, not for riding. Their borders go almost to the Eneti on the Adriatic. They say they are Mede colonists but I can’t be sure about that. Ligurians living above Massilia call traders in the area “Sigynnae”. To Cyprians, the word means “spears”.
  10. They say the land beyond the Ister is overrun by bees or mosquitoes. Probably not though because these animals can’t stand the cold. These are the people Megabazus was charged with conquering by Darius.
  11. Once Darius crossed the Hellespont & got to Sardis, he called Histiaetus & Coës to Sardis to speak with him. Histiaeus, already king of Miletus, asked for possession of Myrcinus of the Edonius so he could build a city there. Coës asked for Mytilêné. Both were granted their wishes.
  12. Darius asked Megabazus to remove the Paeaonians from Europe to Asia. There were 2 Paeaonian brothers who wanted sovereignty over their people. They went to Sardis with their sister. They waited until one day when Darius was hanging out outside the city. They dressed her up in nice clothes & sent her to draw water, carrying a pitcher on her head, leading a horse & spinning flax all at once. Darius had never seen anything like this.
  13. Darius was amazed & ordered his guards to bring her to him. She arrived with her brothers. Darius asked where they were from & they answered they were Paeaonians. Darius asked where that was & why they were in Sardis. They’d come to put themselves under his power & were from not too far from the Hellespont. Paeaonians were originally colonists from Troy. Darius asked if all women there worked like she did. They answered “Yes!”
  14. Darius wrote to Megabazus, ordering him to remove the Paeaonians from their land & bring them across the Hellespont. Receiving the message, Megabazus hired Thracian scouts.
  15. When the Paeaonians heard that the Persians were coming, they all marched to the coast & waited. The Persians knew the Paeaonians were doing this & made an inland route to the cities where there were no men to protect them. The Paeaonian men gave themselves up for the safety of their families & marched to Asia.
  16. The Thracians who lived near Mt. Pangaeum & the area were not conquered by Megabazus. He tried to subdue those by Lake Prasias without luck. The people there live on platforms on piles on top of the lake. The place is connected to land by a single bridge. The men drive 3 piles into the lake for each wife they had – & they have many. Each house has a trap door you can drop a bucket down & pull up a lot of fish.
  17. Once Megabazus had brought the Paeaonians into Asia, he sent a messenger to Macedonia to ask the ruler to yield to Darius. This area had a mine that yielded a talent of silver a day.
  18. The Persians sent men to Amyntas, king of Macedonia & required him to give earth & water to Darius. They did that & then invited the men to a feast. Once the meal was over, the Persians asked them to bring out their wives & concubines to sit by them. The Macedonians said that this was not their custom but would comply. Someone went to get the women & they sat across from the Persians. The Persians wanted the women next to them. They complied. Once they were next to the Persians, the Persians – very drunk at this point – made moves on the women.
  19. Amyntas saw this but bit his tongue. His son, Alexander was fuming & couldn’t take it any longer. He asked his father to go to bed while he carried on the entertainment. Amyntas warned him to behave because the Persians could do a lot of damage to Macedonia if provoked.
  20. Amyntas went to bed. Alexander announced the women would go bathe & then come back. The women left & young beardless men dressed in women’s clothes, strapped with daggers came out to sit by the Persians. Alexander offered the “women” of Macedonia to the Persians & then the boys killed all the Persians with their daggers.
  21. The ambassadors had a large entourage with them, which all disappeared with the men. The Persians searched long & hard for these men with no luck. Alexander was able to hush the matter up by bribing the Persian search party with money & offering Alexander’s sister in marriage to the party leader.
  22. The men of the family were Greeks. Alexander wanted to participate in the Pan-Hellenic games & was turned away until he could prove that he was a Greek – Argive in origin.
  23. Megabazus reached the Hellespont with the Paeaonians & went to Sardis. He heard that Histiaeus the Milesians was raising a wall in Myrcinus. Once Megabazus met Darius in Sardis, he said that it was crazy to let a Greek have a town in Thrace where there was enough wood to build an entire fleet & a silver mine to fund an army. He ought to be stopped before the Greeks & barbarians got a hold of him.
  24. Darius was persuaded  & sent a messenger to Myrcinus. He said how much he appreciated & trusted Histiaeus, that he wanted him to move to Susa & be his advisor.
  25. Darius put Artaphernes, his brother, as governor of Sardis & then went to Susa with Histiaeus. He also left Otanes as general on the seacoast. Otanes’s father, Sisamnes was killed by Cambyses because he’d been bribed. Cambyses appointed Otanes to replace his dead father to keep an honest judge in place.
  26. Otanes succeeded Megabazus in command & took Byzantium, Chalcêdon, Antandres & Campônium. He borrowed ships from Lesbos & took Lemnos & Imbrus – still inhabited by Pelasgians.
  27. Lemnians fought hard but were overwhelmed. The Persian put Lycarêtus, brother of Maeandrius, tyrant of Samos, in charge. Otanes conquered them because he suspected them of not joining Darius in his march on the Sythians, while others fought against the Persians on their return.
  28. It was quiet for a bit but then Naxos & Miletus were having problems. Naxos & Miletus were the 2 most prosperous cities of Ionia. But civil disorders were hampering that success.

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