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Herodotus' HISTORY BOOK 4 (MELPOMENE) Complete

Translated by G. Macaulay.

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1. After Babylon had been taken, the march of Dareios himself [1] against the Scythians took place: for now that Asia was flourishing in respect of population, and large sums were being gathered in as revenue, Dareios formed the desire to take vengeance upon the Scythians, because they had first invaded the Median land and had overcome in fight those who opposed them; and thus they had been the beginners of wrong. The Scythians in truth, as I have before said, [2] had ruled over Upper Asia [3] for eight-and-twenty years; for they had invaded Asia in their pursuit of the Kimmerians, and they had deposed [4] the Medes from their rule, who had rule over Asia before the Scythians came. Now when the Scythians had been absent from their own land for eight-and-twenty years, as they were returning to it after that interval of time, they were met by a contest [5] not less severe than that which they had had with the Medes, since they found an army of no mean size opposing them. For the wives of the Scythians, because their husbands were absent from them for a long time, had associated with the slaves. 2. Now the Scythians put out the eyes of all their slaves because of the milk which they drink; and they do as follows:—they take blow-pipes of bone just like flutes, and these they insert into the vagina of the mare and blow with their mouths, and others milk while they blow: and they say that they do this because the veins of the mare are thus filled, being blown out, and so the udder is let down. When they had drawn the milk they pour it into wooden vessels hollowed out, and they set the blind slaves in order about [6] the vessels and agitate the milk. Then that which comes to the top they skim off, considering it the more valuable part, whereas they esteem that which settles down to be less good than the other. For this reason [7] the Scythians put out the eyes of all whom they catch; for they are not tillers of the soil but nomads.

[1] Some enterprises had been entrusted to others, e.g. the attack on Samos; but this had not been the case with the capture of Babylon, therefore some Editors have proposed corrections, e.g. {au tou} (Schweighäuser), and {autika} (Stein).

[2] See i. 106.

[3] {tes ano 'Asies}: this means Eastern Asia as distinguished from the coasts of Asia Minor; see i. 103 and 177.

[4] {katapausantes}: the expression is awkward if meant to be equivalent to {kai katepausan}, but it is hardly improved by the alteration to {katapausontes}. Perhaps the clause is out of place.

[5] {ponos}.

[6] {peristixantes}: so the two best MSS.; others have {peristesantes} or {peristexantes}. The word {peristixantes} would be from {peristikho}, equivalent to {peristikhizo}, and is acknowledged in this sense by Hesychius.

[7] The connexion is not clear either at the beginning of the chapter or here. This clause would seem to be a repetition of that at the beginning of the chapter, and that which comes between should be an explanation of the reason why the slaves are blinded. As it stands, however, we can only refer it to the clause which follows, {ou gar arotai eisi alla nomades}, and even so there is no real solution of the difficulty, for it is not explained why nomads should have blinded slaves. Perhaps the best resource is to suppose that some part of the explanation, in connexion with the manner of dealing with the milk, has been lost.

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