Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Darius, the New Persian Emperor

Previously in Herodotus

82. This was the opinion expressed by Megabyzos; and thirdly Darius proceeded to declare his opinion, saying: "To me it seems that in those things which Megabyzos said with regard to the multitude he spoke rightly, but in those which he said with regard to the rule of a few, not rightly: for whereas there are three things set before us, and each is supposed to be the best in its own kind, that is to say a good popular government, and the rule of a few, and thirdly the rule of one, I say that this last is by far superior to the others; for nothing better can be found than the rule of an individual man of the best kind; seeing that using the best judgment he would be guardian of the multitude without reproach; and resolutions directed against enemies would so best be kept secret. In an oligarchy however it happens often that many, while practicing virtue with regard to the commonwealth, have strong private enmities arising among themselves; for as each man desires to be himself the leader and to prevail in counsels, they come to great enmities with one another, whence arise factions among them, and out of the factions comes murder, and from murder results the rule of one man; and thus it is shown in this instance by how much that is the best. Again, when the people rules, it is impossible that corruption should not arise, and when corruption arises in the commonwealth, there arise among the corrupt men not enmities but strong ties of friendship: for they who are acting corruptly to the injury of the commonwealth put their heads together secretly to do so. And this continues so until at last some one takes the leadership of the people and stops the course of such men. By reason of this the man of whom I speak is admired by the people, and being so admired he suddenly appears as monarch. Thus he too furnishes herein an example to prove that the rule of one is the best thing. Finally, to sum up all in a single word, whence arose the liberty which we possess, and who gave it to us? Was it a gift of the people or of an oligarchy or of a monarch? I therefore am of opinion that we, having been set free by one man, should preserve that form of rule, and in other respects also that we should not annul the customs of our fathers which are ordered well; for that is not the better way."

83. These three opinions then had been proposed, and the other four men of the seven gave their assent to the last. So when Otanes, who was desirous to give equality to the Persians, found his opinion defeated, he spoke to those assembled thus: "Partisans, it is clear that some one of us must become king, selected either by casting lots, or by entrusting the decision to the multitude of the Persians and taking him whom it shall choose, or by some other means. I therefore shall not be a competitor with you, for I do not desire either to rule or to be ruled; and on this condition I withdraw from my claim to rule, namely that I shall not be ruled by any of you, either I myself or my descendants in future time." When he had said this, the six made agreement with him on those terms, and he was no longer a competitor with them, but withdrew from the assembly; and at the present time this house remains free alone of all the Persian houses, and submits to rule only so far as it wills to do so itself, not transgressing the laws of the Persians.

84. The rest however of the seven continued to deliberate how they should establish a king in the most just manner; and it was resolved by them that to Otanes and his descendants in succession, if the kingdom should come to any other of the seven, there should be given as special gifts a Median dress every year and all those presents which are esteemed among the Persians to be the most valuable: and the reason why they determined that these things should be given to him, was because he first suggested to them the matter and combined them together. These were special gifts for Otanes; and this they also determined for all in common, namely that any one of the seven who wished might pass in to the royal palaces without any to bear in a message, unless the king happened to be sleeping with his wife; and that it should not be lawful for the king to marry from any other family, but only from those of the men who had made insurrection with him: and about the kingdom they determined this, namely that the man whose horse should first neigh at sunrise in the suburb of the city when they were mounted upon their horses, he should have the kingdom.

85. Now Darius had a clever horse-keeper, whose name was Oibares. To this man, when they had left their assembly, Darius spoke these words: "Oibares, we have resolved to do about the kingdom thus, namely that the man whose horse first neighs at sunrise, when we are mounted upon our horses he shall be king. Now therefore, if thou hast any cleverness, contrive that we may obtain this prize, and not any other man." Oibares replied thus: "If, my master, it depends in truth upon this whether thou be king or no, have confidence so far as concerns this and keep a good heart, for none other shall be king before thee; such charms have I at my command." Then Darius said: "If then thou hast any such trick, it is time to devise it and not to put things off, for our trial is to-morrow." Oibares therefore hearing this did as follows:—when night was coming on he took one of the mares, namely that one which the horse of Darius preferred, and this he led into the suburb of the city and tied her up: then he brought to her the horse of Darius, and having for some time led him round her, making him go so close by so as to touch the mare, at last he let the horse mount.

- Herodotus, Book III

More Information: Egypt, Herodotus's Book.

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