Herodotus, the first Greek historian, has been called by some “the fatherof history” and by others “the father of lies. ” Born in 485 B.
Cto a wealthy family at Halicarnassus, in Asia Minor, he was exiled to Samos soonafter his birth because of his family’s opposition to the Persian dominationof Ionia. During his youth, he traveled widely, studying the manners, customs,and religions of the people he encountered. His histories are made up of talestold to him by people from Egypt, Syria, Babylon, Colchis, Paeonian andMacedonia. He was criticized by several ancient writers for creating stories andpassing them off as the truth. Herodotus is most famous for the nine books hewrote on the rise of the Persian Empire, the Persian invasion of Greece in 490BC and 480 BC, and the final Greek victory.Order now
Although it received quite a lot ofpraise and is still considered a masterpiece, it’s trustworthiness has beenquestioned both in ancient and modern times. The story that I’m covering is ofRhampsinitus and the Thief (pg. 277). This is a tale that Herodotus learned inEgypt and many believe that this anecdote was told to him by Egyptian priests,claiming it a true story. Herodotus, himself, didn’t actually believe thisparticular story but he felt it was his duty to report what he was told.
Now,for those of you who didn’t read it, I’ll quickly give a brief synopsis ofthe story. A dying father tells his two sons how to break into the king’svault, which he, himself, built. The father then dies, leaving the family withno way to support themselves. So the two sons begin their thieving. They manageto escape with the treasure three times before the king sets up a trap, in whichone of the brothers gets caught. At his captured brother’s urging, the otherbrother cuts his sibling’s head off, taking it with his, so the family’sidentity would not be known.
The next day, the king was bewildered at the sightof a headless thief. He then ordered his sentries to hang the body on the outerwall and arrest anybody seen mourning the headless corpse. The two thieves’mother, so absolutely distraught over the death of her son, threatens hersurviving son, saying that if he didn’t collect the his brother’s body, shewould turn him in herself. With that, he quickly devised a plan. He got twodonkeys and filled some skins with wine, draping them over the two animal’sbacks.
When he reached where his brother hung and where the sentinels stoodguard, he pulled down the corners of the skins, letting the wine pour to theground. He then began to panic, pretending that he didn’t know what to do. Theguards saw this wine running freely and ran, with buckets in hand to collect thewine, with the intention to drink it all themselves. The thief, pretending to befurious, began to scream and yell at the guards. The guards, wanting to keeptheir wine and not create a fuss with the boy, invited him to drink with them.
Then the guards become to drunk to stay up and pass out, leaving the thief totake down his brother’s body, and to shave each of the guard’s beards,ridiculing them. The king was furious at what the thief had done, so he sets hisdaughter in a room with the order to consort with all the men that came to her. But before they enjoy her she must compel each man to tell her the cleverestthing that they’d ever done. If a man told a story similar to that of thethief, then she should hold him and not let him get away. The thief, seeingthrough the king’s trap, wanted to surpass the king in resourcefulness.
Hethen cuts the arm off a freshly dead man and takes it with him underneath hiscloak. He then meets with the king’s daughter and confesses to the thievingand the murder of his brother. The daughter then reaches to grab him but thethief slips away, leaving her with a dead man’s arm. The king is so astoundedat the wit and daring of the thief that he sent word to every city of immunityand a promise of a great reward if the thief comes forward.
The thief trusts theking’s word and goes to the palace. Rhampsinitus, the king, admires the thiefso greatly that he