Assyrians, Medes and Persians: Ktesias on Persian Matters via Diodoros and Photios (early fourth century BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Assyrians, Medes and Persians: Ktesias on Persian Matters via Diodoros and Photios (early fourth century BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified April 5, 2024,

Ancient authors: Ktesias of Knidos (fourth century BCE), Persian Matters, or Persika = FGrHist 688 F1b, F5 (link to FGrHist), as cited by Diodoros of Sicily (mid-first century BCE), Library of History 2.1-34 (link) and Photios, Bibliotheke, or Collection of Books, codex 72, which is presented below in full (link to Freese translation).

Comments: The work of Ktesias (or: Ctesias) on Persian Matters is one of the few known extensive works that covers eastern peoples from Assyrians and Medes to the Persians themselves, as well as other peoples who interacted with them (e.g. Baktrians, Indians, Sakians, Parthians). Unfortunately the work itself does not survive, but we do have somewhat extensive use of the first part (books 1-6 on Assyrians) by Diodoros of Sicily (in the mid-first century BCE) and a sketchy summary of the latter part (books 7-23 on Persians) by Photios (eighth century CE). Both of these important attestations are supplied further below.

Ktesias, who was from Knidos (or: Cnidus) in western Asia Minor (now near Yazıköy, Turkey), was not some distant observer, but rather a trained Greek physician who came to ply his trade for Persian armies at least by the time of the battle for the Persian throne between the brothers Artaxerxes II and Cyrus the younger in 401 BCE (incidents briefly described in the summary by Photios below). This led Ktesias to be the royal physician for Artaxerxes (cf. Plutarch, Life of Artaxerxes 11.3), who continued as Persian king until 358 BCE. Although we cannot always trust supposed biographical information from centuries later, Diodoros (2.32.4) reflects Ktesias’ own claims and summarizes the situation in this way: “Ktesias of Knidos . . . lived during the time when Cyrus​ [the younger] made his expedition against Artaxerxes [II] his brother, and having been made prisoner and then retained by Artaxerxes because of his medical knowledge, he enjoyed a position of honour with him for seventeen years.​ Now Ktesias says that from the royal records, in which the Persians in accordance with a certain law of theirs kept an account of their ancient affairs, he carefully investigated the facts about each king, and when he had composed his history he published it to the Greeks.”

Diodoros more so than Photios preserves material that suggests Ktesias himself was very much interested in narrating events in terms of the interaction between peoples with an effort to supply ethnographic information regarding peoples’ customs and tendencies (though not digressions as long as Herodotos’). Ktesias’ account of legendary Assyrian figures (especially Ninos and Semiramis), in particular, illustrates the sort of popular and competitive legends that we know circulated widely as part of the attempt for one people to assert its own importance in relation to others. They did so by attributing to kings or leaders of their own people important achievements in military conquest and advances in civilization, on which see Harland’s article on “Ethnic Relations and Circulating Legends in the Villages of Egypt” (link).

Photios’ summary of Ktesias’ book, like some other notes by Photios, seems more interested in racy intrigue and soap opera-like interactions of key figures rather than the peoples that Ktesias may have centered more himself. So the result is we have more ethnographic material from Ktesias on Assyrians than we do on Persians (since Diodoros’ own sections on the Persians are poorly preserved). So in some ways Photios (dealing with the Persians’ portion) gives the impression of an exciting Greek novel with relationship details, while Diodoros (dealing only with Assyrians and some Medes) may more accurately reflect Ktesias’ attempt to present a more serious work that claimed to explain the history of eastern peoples to a Greek audience (but with exciting bits mixed in). (Photios also does summarize some of the key ancient Greek novels, and a summary of Heliodoros’ Ethiopian Matters immediately follows the summaries of Ktesias works, for instance).

It is worth mentioning that, unlike confident scholarly claims regarding Diodoros’ supposed preservation of the work of Hekataios of Abdera on Egyptians (where only once does Diodoros mention his use of Hekataios, on which go to this link), Diodoros’ ongoing use of Ktesias is explicit throughout these sections. So this is one of those cases where a so-called fragmentary historian is more readily accessible, even if reshaped along the way.

Nikolaos of Damaskos’ citations of Ktesias are not provided here, but are collected and translated in Nichols’ work cited below.

Works consulted: Andrew Nichols, “The Complete Fragments of Ctesias of Cnidus: Translation and Commentary with an Introduction” (Ph.D., Gainesville, FL, University of Florida, 2008) (link).

Source of the translations: C. H. Oldfather, Diodorus Sicilus: Library of History, volumes 1-6, LCL (Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1935-1952), public domain (copyright not renewed, passed away in 1954), and John Henry Freese, The Library of Photius: Volume 1 (London: SPCK, 1920), public domain, adapted by Harland.


Diodoros, Library of History = Ktesias, Persian Matters, especially books 1-6 (Assyrians and Medes)

Book 2.

[For Diodoros’ preceding discussion of the Egyptians, go to this link.]


[Achievements of Ninos king of the Assyrians]

1 . . . In this present book we will present the events which took place in Asia in the ancient period, beginning with the time when the Assyrians were the dominant power. In the earliest age, then, the kings of Asia were native-born, and in connection with them no memory is preserved of either a notable achievement or a personal name. The first to be handed down by tradition to history and memory for us as one who had great achievements is Ninos (or: Ninus) [i.e. namesake of the capital of Ninevah], king of the Assyrians. Regarding him we will now try to give a detailed account. For being by nature a warlike man and emulous of courage, he supplied the strongest of the young men with weapons, and by training them for a considerable time he accustomed them to every hardship and all the dangers of war.

[Arabians and their king as allies]

(5) After he had collected a notable army, he formed an alliance with Ariaios, the king of Arabia, a country which in those times seems to have had plenty of brave men. Now, in general, this people (ethnos) is one which loves freedom and under no circumstances submits to a foreign ruler; consequently neither the kings of the Persians at a later time nor those of the Macedonians, though the most powerful of their day, were ever able to enslave this people. For Arabia is generally a difficult country for a foreign army to campaign in, part of it being desert and part of it waterless and supplied at intervals with wells which are hidden and known only to the natives.​

[Assyrians and Arabians conquer the Babylonians]

Ninos, however, the king of the Assyrians, taking along the ruler of the Arabians as an ally, made a campaign with a great army against the Babylonians whose country bordered upon his. In those times the present city of Babylon had not yet been founded, but there were other notable cities in Babylonia. After easily subduing the inhabitants of that region because of their inexperience in the dangers of war, he laid upon them the yearly payment of fixed tributes. But Ninos took captive the king of the conquered Babylonians along with his children and put the king to death.

[Conquering the Armenians]

Then, invading Armenia in great force and laying waste some of its cities, Ninos struck terror into the inhabitants. Consequently their king Barzanes, realizing that he was no match for Ninos in battle, met him with many presents and announced that he would obey his every command. But Ninos treated him with great generosity and agreed that he should not only continue to rule over Armenia but should also, as his friend, furnish a contingent and supplies for the Assyrian army. As his power continually increased, he made a campaign against Media. (10) And the king of this country, Pharnus, meeting him in battle with a formidable force, was defeated, and he both lost the larger part of his soldiers, and himself, being taken captive along with his seven sons and wife, was crucified.

[Peoples conquered in all Asia, except the Baktrians and Indians]

2 Since the undertakings of Ninos were prospering in this way, he was seized with a powerful desire to subdue all of Asia that lies between the Tanais [Don] river​ and the Nile. For, generally speaking, when men enjoy good fortune, the steady current of their success prompts in them the desire for more. Consequently he made one of his friends satrap of Media, while he himself set about the task of subduing the peoples of Asia, and within a period of seventeen years he became master of them all except the Indians and Baktrians. Now no historian has recorded the battles with each people or the number of all the peoples (ethnē) conquered, but we will undertake to run over briefly the most important peoples, as given in the account of Ktesias (or: Ctesias) of Knidos.

Of the lands which lie on the sea and of the others which border on these, Ninos subdued Egypt and Phoenicia, then Coele-Syria, Cilicia (or: Cilicia), Pamphylia, and Lykia, and also Karia (or: Caria), Phrygia, and Lydia. Moreover, he brought under his sway the Troad, Phrygia on the Hellespont, Propontis, Bithynia, Kappadocia (or: Cappadocia), and all the barbarian peoples who inhabit the shores of the Pontos [Black Sea] as far as the Tanais river. Ninos also made himself lord of the lands of the Kadousians, Tapyrians, Hyrkanians, Drangians, Derbikians, Karmanians, Choromnaians, Borkanians, and Parthians. He also invaded both Persis, Susiana and Kaspiana [on the Caspian Sea], as it is called, which is entered by exceedingly narrow passes, known for that reason as the Kaspian gates. Many other lesser peoples he also brought under his rule, about whom it would be a long task to speak. But since Baktriana was difficult to invade and contained multitudes of warlike men, after much toil and labour in vain he deferred to a later time the war against the Baktrians. Leading his forces back into Assyria, he selected a place excellently situated for the founding of a great city.

[Founding of Ninos / Ninevah]

3 For having achievements more notable than those of any king before him, Ninos was eager to found a city of such magnitude that not only would it be the largest of any which then existed in the whole inhabited world, but also that no other ruler of a later time should, if he undertook such a task, find it easy to surpass him. Accordingly, after honouring the king of the Arabians with gifts and rich spoils from his wars, he dismissed him and his contingent to return to their own country. Then, gathering his forces from every quarter and all the necessary material, he founded on the Euphrates river a city​ which was well fortified with walls, giving it the form of a rectangle. The longer sides of the city were each one hundred and fifty stadia in length, and the shorter ninety. And so, since the total circuit comprised four hundred and eighty, he was not disappointed in his hope, since a city its equal, in respect to either the length of its circuit or the magnificence of its walls, was never founded by anyone ever again. For the wall had a height of one hundred feet and its width was sufficient for three chariots across to drive on top. The sum total of its towers was one thousand five hundred, and their height was two hundred feet. He settled in it both Assyrians, who constituted the majority of the population and had the greatest power, and any who wished to come from all other peoples. And to the city he gave his own name, Ninos [Ninevah, modern Mosul, Iraq], and he included within the territory of its settlers a large part of the neighbouring country.

[Origins of Semiramis and the story of the Syrian goddess Derketo, her mother]

4 Since after the founding of this city Ninos made a campaign against Baktriana, where he married Semiramis,​ the most renowned of all women of whom we have any record, it is necessary first of all to tell how she rose from a lowly fortune to such fame. Now there is in Syria a city known as Askalon [modern Ashkelon, Israel], and not far from it a large and deep lake, full of fish. On its shore is a precinct of a famous goddess whom the Syrians call Derketo. This goddess has the head of a woman but all the rest of her body is that of a fish, the reason being something like the following. The story as given by the most learned of the inhabitants of the region is as follows: Aphrodite, being offended with this goddess, inspired in her a violent passion for a certain handsome youth among her followers. Derketo gave herself to the Syrian and bore a daughter, but then, filled with shame of her sinful action, she killed the youth and exposed the child in a rocky desert region. As for herself, from shame and grief she threw herself into the lake and was changed as to the form of her body into a fish. It is for this reason that the Syrians to this day abstain from this animal and honour their fish as gods. But about the region where the baby was exposed a great multitude of doves had their nests, and by them the child was nurtured in an astounding and miraculous manner. Some of the doves kept the body of the baby warm on all sides by covering it with their wings, while others, when they observed that the cowherds and other keepers were absent from the nearby steadings, brought milk from the cows in their beaks and fed the babe by putting it drop by drop between its lips. (5) And when the child was a year old and in need of more solid nourishment, the doves, pecking off bits from the cheeses, supplied it with sufficient nourishment. Now when the keepers returned and saw that the cheeses had been nibbled around the edges, they were astonished at the strange happening. They accordingly kept a look-out, and on discovering the cause found the infant, which was of surpassing beauty. At once, then, bringing it to their steadings they turned it over to the keeper of the royal herds, whose name was Simmas. Simmas, being childless, gave every care to the rearing of the girl, as his own daughter, and called her Semiramis, a name slightly altered from the word which, in the language of the Syrians, means “doves,” birds which since that time all the inhabitants of Syria have continued to honour as goddesses.

5 Such, then, is in substance the story that is told about the birth of Semiramis. And when she had already come to the age of marriage and far surpassed all the other maidens in beauty, an officer was sent from the king’s court to inspect the royal herds. His name was Onnes, and he stood first among the members of the king’s council and had been appointed governor over all Syria. He stopped with Simmas, and on seeing Semiramis was captivated by her beauty. Consequently he earnestly entreated Simmas to give him the maiden in lawful marriage and took her off to Ninos, where Onnes married her and had two sons, Hyapates and Hydaspes. Since the other qualities of Semiramis were in keeping with the beauty of her countenance, it turned out that her husband became completely enslaved by her, and since he would do nothing without her advice he prospered in everything.

[Ninos’ campaign against the Baktrians]

It was at just this time that the king, now that he had completed the founding of the city which bore his name, undertook his campaign against the Baktrians [now Afghanistan]. And since he was well aware of the great number and the courage of these men, and realized that the country had many places which because of their strength could not be approached by an enemy, he enrolled a great army of soldiers from all the negotiations under his sway. Since he had come off badly in his earlier campaign, he was resolved on appearing before Baktriana with a force many times as large as theirs. Accordingly, after the army had been assembled from every source, it numbered, as Ktesias has stated in his history, one million seven hundred thousand foot-soldiers, two hundred and ten thousand cavalry, and slightly less than ten thousand six hundred sword-bearing chariots.

[Diodoros’ comparisons with the sizes of other large armies]

(5) Now at first it seems that this great size of an army is unbelievable, but it will not seem at all impossible to anyone who considers the great extent of Asia and the vast numbers of the peoples who inhabit it. For if a man, disregarding the campaign of Darius against the Scythians with eight hundred thousand​ men and the crossing made by Xerxes against Greece with a host beyond number,​ should consider the events which have taken place in Europe only yesterday or the day before, he would the more quickly come to regard the statement as credible. In Sicily, for instance, Dionysios led forth on his campaigns from the single city of the Syrakusans one hundred and twenty thousand foot-soldiers and twelve thousand cavalry, and from a single harbour four hundred warships, some of which were ships with four or five banks of rowers (quadriremes and quinqueremes). The Romans, a little before the time of Hannibal, foreseeing the magnitude of the war, enrolled all the men in Italy who were fit for military service, both citizens and allies, and the total sum of them fell only a little short of one million. Still, with regard to the number of inhabitants a man would not compare all Italy with a single one of the peoples of Asia.​ Let these facts, then, be a sufficient reply on our part to those who try to estimate the populations of the peoples of Asia in ancient times on the strength of inferences drawn from the desolation which at the present time prevails in its cities.

Now Ninos in his campaign against Baktriana with so large a force was compelled to advance his army in divisions because access to the country was difficult and passes were narrow. For the country of Baktriana, though there were many large cities for the people to dwell in, had one which was the most famous, this being the city containing the royal palace. It was called Baktra [site of modern Balkh, Afghanistan], and in size and in the strength of its acropolis was by far the first of them all. The king of the country, Oxyartes, had enrolled all the men of military age, and they had been gathered to the number of four hundred thousand. So taking this force with him and meeting the enemy at the passes, he allowed a division of the army of Ninos to enter the country. When Oxyartes thought that a sufficient number of the enemy had entered into the plain, he drew out his own forces in battle-order.

A fierce struggle then ensued in which the Baktrians put the Assyrians to flight, and pursuing them as far as the mountains which overlooked the field, killed about one hundred thousand of the enemy. But later, when the whole Assyrian force entered their country, the Baktrians, overpowered by the multitude of them, withdrew city by city, each group intending to defend its own homeland. And so Ninos easily subdued all the other cities, but Baktra, because of its strength and the equipment for war which it contained, he was unable to take by storm.

[Semiramis leads siege of Baktra and marries Ninos]

(5) But when the siege was proving a long affair the husband of Semiramis, who was enamoured of his wife and was making the campaign with the king, sent for the woman. And she, endowed as she was with understanding, daring, and all the other qualities which contribute to distinction, seized the opportunity to display her native ability. First of all, then, since she was about to set out upon a journey of many days, she devised an outfit which made it impossible to distinguish whether the wearer of it was a man or a woman. This dress was well adapted to her needs, as regards both her travelling in the heat, for protecting the colour of her skin, and her convenience in doing whatever she might wish to do, since it was quite pliable and suitable to a young person. In a word, it was so attractive that in later times the Medes, who were then dominant in Asia, always wore the garb of Semiramis, as did the Persians after them.​ Now when Semiramis arrived in Baktriana and observed the progress of the siege, she noted that it was on the plains and at positions which were easily assailed that attacks were being made. However, she saw that no one ever assaulted the acropolis because of its strong position, and that its defender had left their posts there and were coming to the aid of those who were hard pressed on the walls below. Consequently, taking with her such soldiers as were accustomed to clambering up rocky heights, and making her way with them up through a certain difficult ravine, she seized a part of the acropolis and gave a signal to those who were besieging the wall down in the plain. At that point, the defenders of the city, struck with terror at the seizure of the height, left the walls and abandoned all hope of saving themselves.

When the city had been taken in this way, the king, marvelling at the ability of the woman, at first honoured her with great gifts, and later, becoming infatuated with her because of her beauty, tried to persuade her husband to yield her to him of his own accord, offering in return for this favour to give him his own daughter Sosane as wife. (10) But when the man took his offer with ill grace, Ninos threatened to put out his eyes unless he at once gave into his commands. And Onnes, partly out of fear of the king’s threats and partly out of his passion for his wife, fell into a kind of frenzy and madness, put a rope about his neck, and hanged himself. Such, then, were the circumstances whereby Semiramis attained the position of queen.

[Achievements of Semiramis as queen of the Assyrians, including founding of the city of Babylon]

7 Ninos secured the treasures of Baktra, which contained a great amount of both gold and silver, and after settling the affairs of Baktriana disbanded his forces. After this he had by Semiramis a son Ninyas, and then died, leaving his wife as queen. Semiramis buried Ninos in the precinct of the palace and erected over his tomb a very large mound, nine stadium-lengths high and ten wide, as Ktesias says. Consequently, since the city lay on a plain along the Euphrates, the mound was visible for a distance of many stadium-lengths, like an acropolis. This mound stands, they say, even to this day, though the city of Ninos [Ninevah] was razed to the ground by the Medes when they destroyed the empire of the Assyrians [ca. 612 BCE].

Semiramis, whose nature made her eager for great exploits and ambitious to surpass the fame of her predecessor on the throne, set her mind upon founding a city in Babylonia. After securing the architects of all the world and skilled artisans and making all the other necessary preparations, she gathered together from her entire kingdom two million men to complete the work.​ Taking the Euphrates river into the centre she built around the city a wall with great towers set at frequent intervals, the wall being three hundred and sixty stadium-lengths​ in circumference, as Ktesias of Knidos says, but according to the account of Kleitarchos (or: Cleitarchus) and certain of those who at a later time crossed into Asia with Alexander, three hundred and sixty-five stadium-lengths. The latter authors add that it was her desire to make the number of stadium-lengths the same as the days in the year.

Making baked bricks fast in bitumen she built a wall with a height, as Ktesias says, of fifty fathoms, but, as some later writers have recorded, of fifty cubits,​ and wide enough for more than two chariots across to drive upon. The towers numbered two hundred and fifty, their height and width corresponding to the massive scale of the wall. (5) Now it need occasion no wonder that, considering the great length of the circuit wall, Semiramis constructed a small number of towers. Since over a long distance the city was surrounded by swamps, she decided not to build towers along that space, the swamps offering a sufficient natural defence. And all along between the dwellings and the walls a road was left two plethra wide.

[Details regarding achievements in building techniques]

8 In order to expedite the building of these constructions she apportioned a stadium-length to each of her friends, furnishing sufficient material for their task and directing them to complete their work within a year. When they had finished these assignments with great speed, she gratefully accepted their enthusiasm. But she took for herself the construction of a bridge​ five stadium-lengths long at the narrowest point of the river, skilfully sinking the piers, which stood twelve feet apart, into its bed. And the stones, which were set firmly together, she bonded with iron cramps, and the joints of the cramps​ she filled by pouring in lead. Again, before the piers on the side which would receive the current, she constructed cutwaters whose sides were rounded to turn off the water and which gradually diminished to the width of the pier, in order that the sharp points of the cutwaters might divide the impetus of the stream, while the rounded sides, yielding to its force, might soften the violence of the river.​ This bridge, then, floored as it was with beams of cedar and cypress and with palm logs of exceptional size and having a width of thirty feet, is considered to have been inferior in technical skill to none of the works of Semiramis. On each side of the river she built an expensive quay​ of about the same width as the walls and one hundred and sixty stadium-lengths long.

Semiramis also built two palaces on the very banks of the river, one at each end of the bridge, her intention being that from them she might be able both to look down over the entire city and to hold the keys, as it were, to its most important sections. Since the Euphrates river passed through the centre of Babylon and flowed in a southerly direction, one palace faced the rising and the other the setting sun, and both had been constructed on a lavish scale. For in the case of the one which faced west she made the length of its first or outer circuit wall sixty stadium-lengths, fortifying it with lofty walls, which had been built at great cost and were of burned brick. And within this she built a second, circular in form,​ in the bricks of which, before they were baked, wild animals of every kind had been engraved, and by the ingenious use of colours these figures reproduced the actual appearance of the animals themselves. (5) This circuit wall had a length of forty stadium-lengths, a width of three hundred bricks, and a height, as Ktesias says, of fifty fathoms; the height of the towers, however, was seventy fathoms. She also built within these two yet a third circuit wall, which enclosed an acropolis whose circumference was twenty stadium-lengths in length, but the height and width of the structure surpassed the dimensions of the middle circuit wall. On both the towers and the walls there were again animals of every kind, ingeniously executed by the use of colours as well as by the realistic imitation of the several types. The whole structure had been made to represent a hunt, complete in every detail, of all sorts of wild animals, and their size was more than four cubits. Among the animals, moreover, Semiramis had also been portrayed, on horseback and in the act of hurling a javelin at a leopard, and nearby was her husband Ninos, in the act of thrusting his spear into a lion at close quarters.​ In this wall she also set triple gates, two of which were of bronze and were opened by a mechanical device.

Now this palace far surpassed in both size and details of execution the one on the other bank of the river. For the circuit wall of the latter, made of burned brick, was only thirty stadium-lengths long. Instead of the ingenious portrayal of animals it had bronze statues of Ninos and Semiramis and their officers, and one also of Zeus, whom the Babylonians call Belus [“Lord” Marduk]. On it were also portrayed both battle-scenes and hunts of every kind, which filled those who gazed on it with varied emotions of pleasure.

9 After this Semiramis picked out the lowest spot in Babylonia and built a square reservoir, which was three hundred stadium-lengths long on each side. It was constructed of baked brick and bitumen, and had a depth of thirty-five feet. Then, diverting the river into it, she built an underground passage-way from one palace to the other; and making it of burned brick, she coated the vaulted chambers on both sides with hot bitumen until she had made the thickness of this coating four cubits. The side walls of the passage-way were twenty bricks thick and twelve feet high, exclusive of the barrel-vault, and the width of the passage-way was fifteen feet. After this construction had been finished in only seven days she let the river back again into its old channel. So, since the stream flowed above the passage-way, Semiramis was able to go across from one palace to the other without passing over the river. At each end of the passage-way she also set bronze gates which stood until the time of the Persian rule.

[Temple of Zeus / Marduk]

After this she built in the centre of the city a temple​ of Zeus [Marduk] whom, as we have said, the Babylonians call Bel. Now since with regard to this temple the historians are at variance, and since time has caused the structure to fall into ruins, it is impossible to give the exact facts concerning it. But all agree that it was exceedingly high, and that in it the Chaldeans made their observations of the stars, whose risings and settings could be accurately observed by reason of the height of the structure. (5) Now the entire building was ingeniously constructed at great expense of bitumen and brick, and at the top of the ascent Semiramis set up three statues of hammered gold, of Zeus, Hera, and Rhea [one of the latter two may be identified with Marduk’s consort, the Babylonian goddess Zarpanitu]. Of these statues that of Zeus represented him erect and striding forward, and, being forty feet high, weighed a thousand Babylonian talents. That of Rhea showed her seated on a golden throne and was of the same weight as that of Zeus, and at her knees stood two lions, while near by were huge serpents of silver, each one weighing thirty talents. The statue of Hera was also standing, weighing eight hundred talents, and in her right hand she held a snake by the head and in her left a sceptre studded with precious stones. A table for all three statues, made of hammered gold, stood before them, forty feet long, fifteen wide, and weighing five hundred talents. Upon it rested two drinking-cups, weighing thirty talents.There were censers as well, also two in number but weighing each three hundred talents, and also three gold mixing bowls, of which the one belonging to Zeus weighed twelve hundred Babylonian talents and the other two six hundred each. But all these were later carried off as spoil by the kings of the Persians,​ while as for the palaces and the other buildings, time has either entirely effaced them or left them in ruins; and in fact of Babylon itself but a small part is inhabited at this time, and most of the area within its walls is given over to agriculture.

[Aside on the “Hanging Garden” built later]

10 Besides the acropolis, there was also the “Hanging Garden,” as it is called, which was built, not by Semiramis, but by a later Syrian king to please one of his concubines. For they say the concubine, being a Persian by descent and longing for the meadows of her mountains, asked the king to imitate, through the artifice of a planted garden, the distinctive landscape of Persia.​ The park​ extended four plethra on each side, and since the approach to the garden sloped like a hillside and the several parts of the structure rose from one another tier on tier, the appearance of the whole resembled that of a theatre. When the ascending terraces had been built, there had been constructed beneath them galleries which carried the entire weight of the planted garden and rose little by little one above the other along the approach; and the uppermost gallery, which was fifty cubits high, bore the highest surface of the park, which was made level with the circuit wall of the battlements of the city. Furthermore, the walls, which had been constructed at great expense, were twenty-two feet thick, while the passage-way between each two walls was ten feet wide. The roofs of the galleries were covered over with beams of stone sixteen feet long, inclusive of the overlap, and four feet wide. (5) The roof above these beams had first a layer of reeds laid in great quantities of bitumen, over this two courses of baked brick bonded by cement, and as a third layer a covering of lead, to the end that the moisture from the soil might not penetrate beneath. On all this again earth had been piled to a depth sufficient for the roots of the largest trees; and the ground, which was levelled off, was thickly planted with trees of every kind that, by their great size or any other charm, could give pleasure to the beholder. And since the galleries, each projecting beyond another, all received the light, they contained many royal lodgings of every description; and there was one gallery which contained openings leading from the topmost surface and machines for supplying the garden with water, the machines raising the water in great abundance from the river, although no one outside could see it being done. Now this park, as I have said, was a later construction.

[Semiramis founds other cities]

11 Semiramis founded other cities also along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, in which she established trading-places for the merchants who brought goods from Media, Paraetakene, and all the neighbouring region. For the Euphrates and Tigris, the most notable, one may say, of all the rivers of Asia after the Nile and Ganges, have their sources in the mountains of Armenia and are two thousand five hundred stadium-lengths apart at their origin. After flowing through Media and Paraetakene they enter Mesopotamia (the land between the two rivers), which they enclose between them, thus giving this name to the country.​ After this they pass through Babylonia and empty into the Erythraian sea [Persian Gulf in this case].​ Moreover, since they are great streams and traverse a spacious territory they offer many advantages to men who follow a merchant trade; and it is due to this fact that the regions along their banks are filled with prosperous trading-places which contribute greatly to the fame of Babylonia.

Semiramis quarried out a stone from the mountains of Armenia which was one hundred and thirty feet long and twenty-five feet wide and thick. (5) She hauled this by means of many multitudes of yokes of mules and oxen to the river and there loaded it on a raft, on which she brought it down the stream to Babylonia. She then set it up beside the most famous street, an astonishing sight to all who passed by. This stone is called by some an obelisk​ from its shape, and they number it among the seven wonders of the world.

[Customs of building: Bitumen]

12 Although the sights to be seen in Babylonia are many and singular, not the least wonderful is the enormous amount of bitumen which the country produces. So great is the supply of this that it not only suffices for their buildings, which are numerous and large, but the common people also, gathering at the place,​ draw it out without any restriction, and drying it burn it in place of wood. Countless as is the multitude of men who draw it out, the amount remains undiminished, as if derived from some immense source. Moreover, near this source there is a vent-hole, of no great size but of remarkable potency. For it emits a heavy sulphurous vapour which brings death to all living creatures that approach it, and they meet with an end swift and strange. After being subjected for a time to the retention of the breath they are killed, as though the expulsion of the breath were being prevented by the force which has attacked the processes of respiration; and immediately the body swells and blows up, particularly in the region about the lungs. And there is also across the river a lake whose edge offers solid footing, and if any man, unacquainted with it, enters it he swims for a short time, but as he advances towards the centre he is dragged down as though by a certain force; and when he begins to help himself and makes up his mind to turn back to shore again, though he struggles to extricate himself, it appears as if he were being hauled back by something else; and he becomes benumbed, first in his feet, then in his legs as far as the groin, and finally, overcome by numbness in his whole body, he is carried to the bottom, and a little later is cast up dead.

Now concerning the wonders of Babylonia let what has been said suffice.

[Conquest of the Medes]

13 After Semiramis had made an end of her building operations she set forth in the direction of Media with a great force. When she had arrived at the mountain known as Bagistanos [Behustin, near Kermanshah, Iran],​ she encamped near it and laid out a park, which had a circumference of twelve stadia. Being situated in the plain, it contained a great spring by means of which her plantings could be irrigated. The Bagistanos mountain is sacred to Zeus and on the side facing the park has sheer cliffs which rise to a height of seventeen stadium-lengths. The lowest part of these she smoothed off and engraved on it a likeness of herself with a hundred spearmen at her side. She also put this inscription on the cliff in Syrian​ letters: “Semiramis, with the pack-saddles of the beasts of burden in her army, built up a mound from the plain and thereby climbed this precipice, even to this very ridge.”

Setting forth from that place and arriving at the city of Chauon in Media, she noticed on a certain high plateau a rock both of striking height and mass. Accordingly, she laid out there another park of great size, putting the rock in the middle of it, and on the rock she erected, to satisfy her taste for luxury, some very costly buildings from which she used to look down both upon her plantings in the park and on the whole army encamped on the plain. In this place she passed a long time and enjoyed to the full every device that contributed to luxury. However, she was unwilling to contract a lawful marriage, being afraid that she might be deprived of her supreme position, but choosing out the most handsome of the soldiers she consorted with them and then made away with all who had slept with her.

(5) After this she advanced in the direction of Ekbatana and arrived at the mountain called Zarkaios [Zagros mountains in Iran]. Since this extended many stadium-lengths and was full of cliffs and chasms it rendered the journey round a long one. So she became ambitious both to leave an immortal monument of herself and at the same time to shorten her way. Consequently she cut through the cliffs, filled up the low places, and thus at great expense built a short road, which to this day is called the road of Semiramis. Upon arriving at Ekbatana [capital of the Medes], a city which lies in the plain, she built in it an expensive palace and in every other way gave rather exceptional attention to the region. For since the city had no water supply and there was no spring in its vicinity, she made the whole of it well watered by bringing to it with much hardship and expense an abundance of the purest water. For at a distance from Ekbatana of about twelve stadium-lengths is a mountain, which is called Orontes and is unusual for its ruggedness and enormous height, since the ascent, straight to its summit, is twenty-five stadium-lengths. And since a great lake, which emptied into a river, lay on the other side, she made a cutting through the base of this mountain. The tunnel was fifteen feet wide and forty feet high; and through it she brought in the river which flowed from the lake, and filled the city with water. Now this is what she did in Media.

[Visits Persia]

14 After this she visited Persis and every other country over which she ruled throughout Asia. Everywhere she cut through the mountains and the precipitous cliffs and constructed expensive roads, while on the plains she made mounds, sometimes constructing them as tombs for those of her generals who died, and sometimes founding cities on their tops. It was also her custom, whenever she made camp, to build little mounds, upon which setting her tent she could look down upon all the encampment. As a consequence many of the works she built throughout Asia remain to this day and are called “works of Semiramis.”

[Visits Egypt and conquers Libya and Ethiopia]

After this she visited all Egypt, and after subduing most of Libya she went also to the oracle of Ammon​ to inquire of the god regarding her own end. The account runs that the answer was given her that she would disappear from among men and receive undying honour among some of the peoples of Asia, and that this would take place when her son Ninyas should conspire against her. Then upon her return from these regions she visited most of Ethiopia, subduing it as she went and inspecting the wonders of the land. For in that country, they say, there is a lake, square in form, with a perimeter of some hundred and sixty feet, and its water is like cinnabar in colour and the odour of it is exceedingly sweet, not unlike that of old wine. Moreover, it has a remarkable power; for whoever has drunk of it, they say, falls into a frenzy and accuses himself of every sin which he had formerly committed in secret. However, a man may not readily agree with those who tell such things.

[Aside on customs of the Ethiopians, siding with Ktesias against Herodotos]

15 In the burial of their dead the inhabitants of Ethiopia follow customs peculiar to themselves. After they have embalmed the body and have poured a heavy coat of glass over it they stand it on a pillar, so that the body of the dead man is visible through the glass to those who pass by. This is the statement of Herodotos ​[Inquiries 3.24]. But Ktesias of Knidos, declaring that Herodotos is inventing a tale, gives for his part this account. The body is indeed embalmed, but glass is not poured about the naked bodies because they would be burned and so completely disfigured that they could no longer preserve their likeness. For this reason they fashion a hollow statue of gold and when the corpse has been put into this they pour the glass over the statue. The figure, prepared in this way, is then placed at the tomb, and the gold, fashioned as it is to resemble the deceased, is seen through the glass. Now the rich among them are buried in this ay, he says, but those who leave a smaller estate receive a silver statue, and the poor one made of earthenware. As for the glass, there is enough of it for everyone, since it occurs in great abundance in Ethiopia and is quite current among the inhabitants. (5) With regard to the custom prevailing among the Ethiopians and the other features of their country we will a little later present those that are the most important and deserving of record, at which time we will also recount their early deeds and their mythology [Diodoros, Library of History 3.2-10 (link)].

[Plans to conquer the Indians but ultimate failure]

16 But after Semiramis had put in order the affairs of Ethiopia and Egypt she returned with her force to Baktra in Asia. Since she had great forces and had been at peace for some time, she became eager to achieve some brilliant exploit in war. And when she was informed that the Indian people (ethnos) was the largest one in the world and likewise possessed both the most extensive and the fairest country, she purposed to make a campaign into India.​ Stabrobates at that time was king of the country and had a multitude of soldiers without number. Many elephants were also at his disposal, fitted out in an exceedingly splendid fashion with such things as would strike terror in war. For India is a land of unusual beauty, and since it is traversed by many rivers it is supplied with water over its whole area and yields two harvests each year. Consequently it has such an abundance of the necessities of life that at all times it favours its inhabitants with a bounteous enjoyment of them. It is said that, because of the favourable climate in those parts, the country has never experienced a famine or a destruction of crops. It also has an unbelievable number of elephants, which both in courage and in strength of body far surpass those of Libya, and likewise gold, silver, iron, and copper. Furthermore, within its borders are to be found great quantities of precious stones of every kind and of practically all other things which contribute to luxury and wealth.

When Semiramis had received a detailed account of these facts she was led to begin her war against the Indians, although she had been done no injury by them. (5) And realizing that she needed an exceedingly great force in addition to what she had she despatched messengers to all the satrapies, commanding the governors to enrol the bravest of the young men and setting their quota in accordance with the size of each people. She further ordered them all to make new suits of armour and to be at hand, brilliantly equipped in every other respect, at Baktra on the third year thereafter. She also summoned shipwrights from Phoenicia, Syria, Kypros (or: Kypros), and the rest of the lands along the sea. Shipping an abundance of timber there, she ordered them to build river boats which could be taken to pieces. For the Indus river, by reason of its being the largest in that region and the boundary of her kingdom, required many boats, some for the passage across and others from which to defend the former from the Indians. Since there was no timber near the river, the boats had to be brought from Baktriana by land.

Observing that she was greatly inferior because of her lack of elephants, Semiramis conceived the plan of making dummies like these animals, in the hope that the Indians would be struck with terror because of their belief that no elephants ever existed at all apart from those found in India. Accordingly she chose out three hundred thousand black oxen and distributed their meat among her artisans and the men who had been assigned to the task of making the figures. But she sewed together the hides and stuffed them with straw, and thus made dummies, copying in every detail the natural appearance of these animals. Each dummy had within it a man to take care of it and a camel and, when it was moved by the latter, to those who saw it from a distance it looked like an actual animal. (10) And the artisans who were engaged in making these dummies for her worked at their task in a certain court which had been surrounded by a wall and had gates which were carefully guarded, so that no worker within could pass out no one from outside could come in to them. This she did in order that no one from the outside might see what was taking place and that no report about the dummies might escape to the Indians.

17 When the boats and the beasts had been prepared in the two allotted years, on the third she summoned her forces from everywhere to Baktriana. The multitude of the army which was assembled, as Ktesias of Knidos has recorded, was three million foot-soldiers, two hundred thousand cavalry, and one hundred thousand chariots. There were also men mounted on camels, carrying swords four cubits long, as many in number as the chariots. And river boats which could be taken apart she built to the number of two thousand, and she had collected camels to carry the vessels overland. Camels also bore the dummies of the elephants, as has been mentioned. By bringing their horses up to these camels, the soldiers got them used to not fearing the savage nature of the beasts.​ A similar thing was also done many years later by Perseus, the king of the Macedonians, before his decisive conflict with the Romans who had elephants from Libya.​ But neither in his case did it turn out that the zeal and ingenuity displayed in such matters had any effect on the conflict, nor in that of Semiramis, as will be shown more precisely in our further account.

When Stabrobates, the king of the Indians, heard of the immensity of the forces mentioned and of the exceedingly great preparations which had been made for the war, he was anxious to surpass Semiramis in every respect. (5) First of all, then, he made four thousand river boats out of reeds, because along its rivers and marshy places India produces a great abundance of reeds, so large in diameter that a man cannot easily put his arms around them. It is said, furthermore, that ships built of these are exceedingly serviceable, since this wood does not rot. Moreover, he gave great care to the preparation of his arms and by visiting all India gathered a far greater force than that which had been collected by Semiramis. Furthermore, holding a hunt of the wild elephants and multiplying many times the number already at his disposal, he fitted them all out splendidly with such things as would strike terror in war; and the consequence was that when they advanced to the attack the multitude of them as well as the towers upon their backs made them appear like a thing beyond the power of human nature to understand.

18 When he had made all his preparations for the war he despatched messengers to Semiramis, who was already on the road, accusing her of being the aggressor in the war although she had been injured in no respect. Then, in the course of his letter, after saying many slanderous things against her as being sexually promiscous and calling upon the gods as witnesses, he threatened her with crucifixion when he had defeated her. Semiramis, however, on reading his letter dismissed his statements with laughter and remarked, “It will be in deeds​ that the Indian will make trial of my courage.” And when her advance brought her with her force to the Indus river, she found the boats of the enemy ready for battle. Consequently she on her side, quickly putting together her boats and manning them with her best marines, joined battle on the river, while the foot-soldiers which were drawn up along the banks also participated eagerly in the contest. The struggle raged for a long time and both sides fought spiritedly, but finally Semiramis was victorious and destroyed about a thousand of the boats, taking also not a few men prisoners. (5) Elated now by her victory, she reduced to slavery the islands in the river and the cities on them and gathered in more than one hundred thousand captives.

After these events the king of the Indians withdrew his force from the river, giving the appearance of retreating in fear but actually with the intention of enticing the enemy to cross the river. At that point, Semiramis, now that her undertakings were prosperous as she wished, spanned the river with a costly and large bridge, by means of which she got all her forces across. Then she left sixty thousand men to guard the pontoon bridge, while with the rest of her army she advanced in pursuit of the Indians, the dummy elephants leading the way in order that the king’s spies might report to the king the multitude of these animals in her army. Nor was she deceived in this hope. On the contrary, when those who had been despatched to spy her out reported to the Indians the multitude of elephants among the enemy, they were all at a loss to discover from where such a multitude of beasts as accompanied her could have come. However, the deception did not remain a secret for long because some of Semiramis’ troops were caught neglecting their night watches in the camp, and these, in fear of the consequent punishment, deserted to the enemy and pointed out to them their mistake regarding the nature of the elephants. Encouraged by this information, the king of the Indians, after informing his army about the dummies, set his forces in array and turned about to face the Assyrians.

19 Semiramis likewise marshalled her forces, and as the two armies neared each other Stabrobates, the king of the Indians, despatched his cavalry and chariots far in advance of the main body. But the queen stoutly withstood the attack of the cavalry, and since the elephants which she had fabricated had been stationed at equal intervals in front of the main body of troops, it came about that the horses of the Indians shied at them. For whereas at a distance the dummies looked like the actual animals with which the horses of the Indians were acquainted and therefore charged upon them boldly enough, yet on nearer contact the odour which reached the horses was unfamiliar, and then the other differences, which taken all together were very great, threw them into utter confusion. Consequently some of the Indians were thrown to the ground, while others, whence their horses would not obey the rein, were carried with their mounts pell-mell into the midst of the enemy. Then Semiramis, who was in the battle with a select band of soldiers, made skilful use of her advantage and put the Indians to flight. But although these fled towards the battle-line, King Stabrobates, undismayed, advanced the ranks of his foot-soldiers, keeping the elephants in front, while he himself, taking his position on the right wing and fighting from the most powerful of the beasts, charged in terrifying fashion upon the queen, whom chance had placed opposite him. (5) Since the rest of the elephants followed his example, the army of Semiramis withstood but a short time the attack of the beasts because the animals, by virtue of their extraordinary courage and the confidence which they felt in their power, easily destroyed everyone who tried to withstand them. Consequently there was a great slaughter, which was effected in various ways, some being trampled beneath their feet, others ripped up by their tusks, and a number tossed into the air by their trunks. Since a great multitude of corpses lay piled one upon the other and the danger aroused terrible consternation and fear in those who witnessed the sight, not a man had the courage to hold his position any longer.

Now when the entire multitude turned in flight the king of the Indians pressed his attack upon Semiramis herself. First he let fly an arrow and struck her on the arm, and then with his javelin he pierced the back of the queen, but only with a glancing blow. Since for this reason Semiramis was not seriously injured she rode swiftly away, the pursuing beast being much inferior in speed. But since all were fleeing to the pontoon bridge and so great a multitude was forcing its way into a single narrow space, some of the queen’s soldiers perished by being trampled upon by one another and by cavalry and foot-soldiers being thrown together in unnatural confusion. When the Indians pressed hard upon them a violent crowding took place on the bridge because their terror, so that many were pushed to either side of the bridge and fell into the river. As for Semiramis, when the largest part of the survivors of the battle had found safety by putting the river behind them, she cut the fastenings which held the bridge together. When these were loosened the pontoon bridge, having been broken apart at many points and bearing great numbers of pursuing Indians, was carried down in haphazard fashion by the violence of the current and caused the death of many of the Indians, but for Semiramis it was the means of complete safety, the enemy now being prevented from crossing over against her. (10) After these events the king of the Indians remained inactive, since heavenly omens appeared to him which his seers interpreted to mean that he must not cross the river. Semiramis, after exchanging prisoners, made her way back to Baktra with the loss of two-thirds of her force.

[Semiramis’ end]

20 Some time later her son Ninyas conspired against her through the agency of a certain eunuch. Remembering the prophecy given her by Ammon,​ she did not punish the conspirator. On the contrary, after turning the kingdom over to him and commanding the governors to obey him, she at once disappeared, as if she were going to be translated to the gods as the oracle had predicted. Some, making a myth of it, say that she turned into a dove and flew off in the company of many birds which alighted on her dwelling, and this, they say, is the reason why the Assyrians worship the dove as a god, thus deifying Semiramis. Be that as it may, this woman, after having been queen over all Asia with the exception of India, passed away in the manner mentioned above, having lived sixty-two years and having reigned forty-two.

[Alternative story of Semiramis by Athenaios]

This, then, is the account that Ktesias of Knidos has given about Semiramis. But Athenaios​ and certain other historians say that she was a beautiful prostitute and, because of her beauty, was loved by the king of the Assyrians. Now at first she was accorded only a moderate acceptance in the palace, but later, when she had been proclaimed a lawful wife, she persuaded the king to yield the royal prerogatives to her for a period of five days.​ (5) Upon receiving the sceptre and the regal garb, Semiramis held high festival on the first day and gave a magnificent banquet, at which she persuaded the commanders of the military forces and all the greatest dignitaries to co‑operate with her. On the second day, while the people and the most notable citizens were paying her their respects as queen, she arrested her husband and put him in prison. Since she was by nature a woman of great designs and bold as well, she seized the throne and remaining queen until old age accomplished many great things. Such, then, are the conflicting accounts which may be found in the historians regarding the career of Semiramis.

[Ninyas as king of the Assyrians and lack of accomplishments]

21 After her death Ninyas, the son of Ninos and Semiramis, succeeded to the throne and had a peaceful reign, since he in no way emulated his mother’s fondness for war and her adventurous spirit. In the first place, he spent all his time in the palace, seen by no one but his concubines and the eunuchs who attended him. He devoted his life to luxury and idleness and the consistent avoidance of any suffering or anxiety, holding the end and aim of a happy reign to be the enjoyment of every kind of pleasure without restraint. Moreover, having in view the safety of his crown and the fear he felt with reference to his subjects, he used to summon each year a fixed number of soldiers and a general from each people and to keep the army. The army had been gathered in this way from all his subject peoples, outside his capital, appointing as commander of each people one of the most trustworthy men in his service. At the end of the year he would summon from his peoples a second equal number of soldiers and dismiss the former to their countries. (5) The result of this device was that all those subject to his rule were filled with awe, seeing at all times a great host encamped in the open and punishment ready to fall on any who rebelled or would not yield obedience. This annual change of the soldiers was devised by him in order that, before the generals and all the other commanders of the army should become well acquainted with each other, every man of them would have been separated from the rest and have gone back to his own country. For long service in the field both gives the commanders experience in the arts of war and fills them with arrogance, and, above all, it offers great opportunities for rebellion and for plotting against their rulers. The fact that he was seen by no one outside the palace made everyone ignorant of the luxury of his manner of life, and through their fear of him, as of an unseen god, each man dared not show disrespect of him even in word. So by appointing generals, satraps, financial officers, and judges for each people and arranging all other matters as he felt at any time to be to his advantage, he remained for his lifetime in the city of Ninos.

The rest of the kings also followed his example, son succeeding father upon the throne, and reigned for thirty generations down to Sardanapallos. It was under Sardanapallos that the empire of the Assyrians fell to the Medes, after it had lasted more than thirteen hundred years,​ as Ktesias of Knidos says in his second book.

[Subsequent reigns uneventful, except Teutamos’ contributions to the Trojan war]

22 There is no special need of giving all the names of the kings and the number of years which each of them reigned because nothing was done by them which merits mentioning. For the only event which has been recorded is the despatch by the Assyrians to the Trojans of an allied force, which was under the command of Memnon the son of Tithonos. For when Teutamos, they say, was ruler of Asia, being the twentieth in succession from Ninyas the son of Semiramis, the Greeks made an expedition against Troy with Agamemnon, at a time when the Assyrians had controlled Asia for more than a thousand years. Priam, who was king of the Troad and a vassal of the king of the Assyrians, being hard pressed by the war, sent an embassy to the king requesting aid. Teutamos despatched ten thousand Ethiopians and a like number of the men of Susiana along with two hundred chariots, having appointed as general Memnon the son of Tithonos.

Now Tithonos, who was at that time general of Persis, was the most highly esteemed of the governors at the king’s court. Memnon, who was in the bloom of manhood, was distinguished both for his bravery and for his nobility of spirit. He also built the palace in the upper city of Susa which stood until the time of the Persian empire and was called after him Memnonian. Moreover, he constructed through the country a public highway which bears the name Memnonian to this time. But the Ethiopians who border upon Egypt dispute this, maintaining that this man was a native of their country, and they point out an ancient palace which to this day, they say, bears the name Memnonian. (5) At any rate, the account runs that Memnon went to the aid of the Trojans with twenty thousand foot-soldiers and two hundred chariots. He was admired for his bravery and killed many Greeks in the fighting, but was finally ambushed by the Thessalians and killed. At that point the Ethiopians recovered his body, burned the corpse, and took the bones back to Tithonos. Such is the account concerning Memnon that is given in the royal records, according to what the barbarians say.

[Sardanapallos’ supposed effeminacy as the cause of the Assyrians’ defeat]

23 Sardanapallos [largely legendary figure set in the seventh century BCE], the thirtieth in succession from Ninos, who founded the empire, and the last king of the Assyrians, outdid all his predecessors in luxury and sluggishness.​ For not to mention the fact that he was not seen by any man residing outside the palace, he lived the life of a woman. Spending his days in the company of his concubines and spinning purple garments and working the softest of wool, he had taken on women’s clothing and so covered his face – and in fact his entire body – with whitening cosmetics and the other unguents used by prostitutes. The result was he made his body more delicate than any luxury-loving woman. He also took care to make even his voice to be like a woman’s, and at his carousals not only to indulge regularly in those drinks and foodss which could offer the greatest pleasure, but also to pursue the delights of love with men as well as women. He practised sexual indulgence of both kinds without restraint, showing not the least concern for the disgrace attending such conduct. To such an excess did he go of luxury and of the most shameless sensual pleasure and in temperance, that he composed a funeral dirge for himself and commanded his successors upon the throne to inscribe it upon his tomb after his death. It was composed by him in a foreign language but was afterwards translated by a Greek as follows: “Knowing full well that you were mortal born, / Your heart lift up, take your delight in feast; / When dead no pleasure more is yours. Thus I, / Who once over mighty Ninos ruled, am nothing / But dust. Yet these are mine which gave me joy / In life — the food I ate, my sexual licence, / And love’s delights. But all those other things / Men consider felicities are left behind.” Because he was a man of this character, not only did he end his own life in a disgraceful manner, but he caused the total destruction of the Assyrian empire, which had endured longer than any other known to history.


[Medes’ conquest of Assyria with involvement by Babylonians and the Chaldean priest Belesys]

24 The facts are these:​ A certain Median named Arbakes, who was conspicuous for his bravery and nobility of spirit, was the general of the contingent of Medes which was sent each year to Ninos [legendary Assyrian king]. Having made the acquaintance during this service of the general of the Babylonians, he was urged by him [the Babylonian] to overthrow the empire of the Assyrians. (2) Now this man’s name was Belesys, and he was the most distinguished of those priests whom the Babylonians call “Chaldeans.” Since as a consequence he had the fullest experience of astrology and divination, Belesys could accurately foretell the future to the people in general. Therefore, being greatly admired for this gift, he also predicted to the general of the Medes, who was his friend, that it was certainly fated for him to be king over all the territory which was then held by Sardanapallos.

Arbakes, commending the man, promised to give him the satrapy of Babylonia when the affair should be consummated, and for his part, like a man elated by a message from some god, both entered into a league with the commanders of the other peoples and assiduously invited them all to banquets and social gatherings, establishing thereby a friendship with each of them. He was resolved also to see the king face to face and to observe his whole manner of life. Consequently he gave one of the eunuchs a golden bowl as a present and gained admittance to Sardanapallos; and when he had observed at close hand both his luxuriousness and his love of effeminate pursuits and practices, he despised the king as worthy of no consideration and was led all the more to cling to the hopes which had been held out to him by the Chaldaean. (5) And the conclusion of the matter was that he formed a conspiracy with Belesys, whereby he should himself move the Medes and Persians to revolt while the latter should persuade the Babylonians to join the undertaking and should secure the help of the commander of the Arabs, who was his friend, for the attempt to secure the supreme control.

When the year’s time of their service in the king’s army​ had passed and, another force having arrived to replace them, the relieved men had been dismissed as usual to their homes, thereupon Arbakes persuaded the Medes to attack the Assyrian kingdom and the Persians to join in the conspiracy, on the condition of receiving their freedom.​ Belesys too in similar fashion both persuaded the Babylonians to strike for their freedom, and sending an embassy to Arabia, won over the commander of the people of that country, a friend of his who exchanged hospitality with him, to join in the attack. And after a year’s time all these leaders gathered a multitude of soldiers and came with all their forces to Ninos, ostensibly bringing up replacements, as was the custom, but in fact with the intention of destroying the empire of the Assyrians. Now when these four peoples had gathered into one place the whole number of them amounted to four hundred thousand men, and when they had assembled into one camp they took counsel together concerning the best plan to pursue.

25 As for Sardanapallos, so soon as he became aware of the revolt, he led forth against the rebels the contingents which had come from the rest of the peoples. And at first, when battle was joined on the plain, those who were making the revolt were defeated, and after heavy losses were pursued to a mountain which was seventy stadium-lengths distant from Ninos; but afterwards, when they came down again into the plain and were preparing for battle, Sardanapallos marwilled his army against them and despatched heralds to the camp of the enemy to make this proclamation: “Sardanapallos will give two hundred talents of gold to anyone who slays Arbakes the Mede, and will make a present of twice that amount to anyone who delivers him up alive and will also appoint him governor over Media.” Likewise he promised to reward any who would either slay Belesys the Babylonian or take him alive. But since no man paid any attention to the proclamation, he joined battle, killed many of the rebels, and pursued the remainder of the multitude into their encampment in the mountains.

Arbakes, having lost heart because of these defeats, now convened a meeting of his friends and called upon them to consider what should be done. (5) Now the majority said that they should retire to their respective countries, seize strong positions, and so far as possible prepare there whatever else would be useful for the war; but Belesys the Babylonian, by maintaining that the gods were promising them by signs that with labours and hardship they would bring their enterprise to a successful end, and encouraging them in every other way as much as he could, persuaded them all to remain to face further perils. So there was a third battle, and again the king was victorious, captured the camp of the rebels, and pursued the defeated foe as far as the boundaries of Babylonia; and it also happened that Arbakes himself, who had fought most brilliantly and had killed many Assyrians, was wounded. And now that the rebels had suffered defeats so decisive following one upon the other, their commanders, abandoning all hope of victory, were preparing to disperse each to his own country. But Belesys, who had passed a sleepless night in the open and had devoted himself to the observation of the stars, said to those who had lost hope in their cause, “If you will wait five days help will come of its own accord, and there will be a mighty change to the opposite in the whole situation; for from my long study of the stars I see the gods foretelling this to us.” And he appealed to them to wait that many days and test his own skill and the good will of the gods.

26 So after they had all been called back and had waited the stipulated time, there came a messenger with the news that a force which had been despatched from Baktriana to the king was near at hand, advancing with all speed. Arbakes, accordingly, decided to go to meet their generals by the shortest route, taking along the best and most agile of his troops, so that, in case they should be unable to persuade the Baktrians by arguments to join in the revolt, they might resort to weapons to force them to share with them in the same hopes. But the outcome was that the new-comers gladly listened to the call to freedom, first the commanders and then the entire force, and they all encamped in the same place.

It happened at this very time that the king of the Assyrians, who was unaware of the defection of the Baktrians and had become elated over his past successes, turned to indulgence and divided among his soldiers for a feast animals and great quantities of both wine and all other provisions. Consequently, since the whole army was carousing, Arbakes, learning from some deserters of the relaxation and drunkenness in the camp of the enemy, made his attack upon it unexpectedly in the night. (5) And as it was an assault of organized men upon disorganized and of ready men upon unprepared, they won possession of the camp, and after slaying many of the soldiers pursued the rest of them as far as the city. After this the king named for the chief command Galaemenes, his wife’s brother, and gave his own attention to the affairs within the city. But the rebels, drawing up their forces in the plain before the city, overcame the Assyrians in two battles, and they not only killed Galaemenes, but of the opposing forces they cut down some in their flight, while others, who had been shut out from entering the city and forced to leap into the Euphrates river, they destroyed almost to a man. So great was the multitude of the killed that the water of the stream, mingled with the blood, was changed in colour over a considerable distance. Furthermore, now that the king was shut up in the city and besieged there, many of the peoples revolted, going over in each case to the side of liberty.

Sardanapallos, realizing that his entire kingdom was in the greatest danger, sent his three sons and two daughters together with much of his treasure to Paphlagonia to the governor Cotta, who was the most loyal of his subjects, while he himself, despatching letter-carriers to all his subjects, summoned forces and made preparations for the siege. Now there was a prophecy which had come down to him from his ancestors: “No enemy will ever take Ninos by storm unless the river will first become the city’s enemy.” Assuming, therefore, that this would never be, he held out in hope, his thought being to endure the siege and await the troops which would be sent from his subjects.

27 The rebels, elated at their successes, pressed the siege, but because of the strength of the walls they were unable to do any harm to the men in the city; for neither engines for throwing stones, nor shelters for sappers,​ nor battering-rams devised to overthrow walls had as yet been invented at that time. Moreover, the inhabitants of the city had a great abundance of all provisions, since the king had taken thought on that score. Consequently the siege dragged on, and for two years they pressed their attack, making assaults on the walls and preventing inhabitants of the city from going out into the country; but in the third year, after there had been heavy and continuous rains, it came to pass that the Euphrates, running very full, both inundated a portion of the city and broke down the walls for a distance of twenty stadium-lengths. At this the king, believing that the oracle had been fulfilled and that the river had plainly become the city’s enemy, abandoned hope of saving himself. And in order that he might not fall into the hands of the enemy, he built an enormous pyre​ in his palace, heaped upon it all his gold and silver as well as every article of the royal wardrobe, and then, shutting his concubines and eunuchs in the room which had been built in the middle of the pyre, he consigned both them and himself and his palace to the flames. The rebels, on learning of the death of Sardanapallos, took the city by forcing an entrance where the wall had fallen, and clothing Arbakes in the royal garb saluted him as king and put in his hands the supreme authority.

28 After the new king had distributed among the generals who had aided him in the struggle gifts corresponding to their several deserts, and as he was appointing satraps over the peoples, Belesys the Babylonian, who had foretold to Arbakes that he would be king of Asia, coming to him, reminded him of his good services, and asked that he be given the governor­ship of Babylonia, as had been promised at the outset. He also explained that when their cause was endangered he had made a vow to Belus that, if Sardanapallos were defeated and his palace went up in flames, he would bring its ashes to Babylon, and depositing them near the river and the sacred precinct of the god he would construct a mound which, for all who sailed down the Euphrates, would stand as an eternal memorial of the man who had overthrown the rule of the Assyrians. This request he made because he had learned from a certain eunuch, who had made his escape and come to Belesys and was kept hidden by him, of the facts regarding the silver and gold. Now since Arbakes knew nothing of this, by reason of the fact that all the inmates of the palace had been burned along with the king, he allowed him both to carry the ashes away and to hold be able without the payment of tribute. Thereupon Belesys procured boats and at once sent off to Babylon along with the ashes practically all the silver and gold; and the king, having been informed of the act which Belesys had been caught perpetrating, appointed as judges the generals who had served with him in the war. (5) And when the accused acknowledged his guilt, the court sentenced him to death, but the king, being a magnanimous man and wishing to make his rule at the outset known for clemency, both freed Belesys from the danger threatening him and allowed him to keep the silver and gold which he had carried off; likewise, he did not even take from him the governor­ship over Babylon which had originally been given to him, saying that his former services were greater than his subsequent misdeeds. When this act of clemency was noised about, he won no ordinary loyalty on the part of his subjects as well as renown among the peoples, all judging that a man who had conducted himself in this wise towards wrongdoers was worthy of the kingship. Arbakes, however, showing clemency towards the inhabitants of the city, settled them in villages and returned to each man his personal possessions, but the city he levelled to the ground. Then the silver and gold, amounting to many talents, which had been left in the pyre, he collected and took off to Ekbatana in Media.

So the empire of the Assyrians, which had endured from the time of Ninos through thirty generations, for more than one thousand three hundred years, was destroyed by the Medes in the manner described above.

[For Diodoros discussion of the Babylonian Chaldean priests at this point in the narrative, go to this link].

31 . . . (10) So far as the Chaldeans are concerned we will be satisfied with what has been said, that we may not wander too far from the matter proper to our history. Now that we have given an account of the destruction of the kingdom of the Assyrians by the Medes we will return to the point at which we digressed.

[Evaluation of the sources on the Medes]

32 Since the earliest writers of history are at variance concerning the mighty empire of the Medes, we feel that it is incumbent upon those who would write the history of events with a love for truth to present side by side the different accounts of the historians. Now Herodotos, who lived in the time of Xerxes,​ gives this account: After the Assyrians had ruled Asia for five hundred years they were conquered by the Medes, and thereafter no king arose for many generations to lay claim to supreme power, but the city-states, enjoying a regimen of their own, were administered in a democratic fashion.

[Cyaxares and surrounding peoples]

Finally, however, after many years a man distinguished for his justice, named Cyaxares [reigning ca. 653-585 BCE],​ was chosen king among the Medes. He was the first to try to attach to himself the neighbouring peoples and became for the Medes the founder of their universal empire. After him his descendants extended the kingdom by continually adding a great deal of the adjoining country, until the reign of Astyages [reigning ca. 585-550 BCE] was conquered by Cyrus and the Persians. We have for the present given only the most important of these events in summary and will later give a detailed account of them one by one when we come to the periods in which they fall. For it was in the second year of the Seventeenth Olympiad, according to Herodotos, that Cyaxares was chosen king by the Medes.

Ktesias of Knidos, on the other hand, lived during the time when Cyrus​ [the younger] made his expedition against Artaxerxes his brother, and having been made prisoner and then retained by Artaxerxes because of his medical knowledge, he enjoyed a position of honour with him for seventeen years.​ Now Ktesias says that from the royal records, in which the Persians in accordance with a certain law of theirs kept an account of their ancient affairs, he carefully investigated the facts about each king, and when he had composed his history he published it to the Greeks.

(5) This, then, is his account: After the destruction of the Assyrian empire the Medes were the chief power in Asia under their king Arbakes, who conquered Sardanapallos, as has been told before.​ When he had reigned twenty-eight years his son Maudakes succeeded to the throne and reigned over Asia fifty years. After him Sosarmos ruled for thirty years, Artykas for fifty, the king known as Arbianes for twenty-two, and Artaios for forty years.

[War between Medes and Kadousians in the time of king Artaios]

33 During the reign of Artaios a great war broke out between the Medes and the Kadousians [active near the Caspian Sea], for the following reasons. Parsondes, a Persian, a man renowned for his courage and intelligence and every other virtue, was both a friend of the king’s and the most influential of the members of the royal council. Feeling offended by the king in a certain decision, he fled with three thousand foot-soldiers and a thousand horsemen to the Kadousians, to one of whom, the most influential man in those parts, he had given his sister in marriage. Now that he had become a rebel, he persuaded the entire people to vindicate their freedom and was chosen general because of his courage. Then, learning that a great force was being gathered against him, he armed the whole people of the Kadousians and pitched his camp before the passes leading into the country, having a force of no less than two hundred thousand men in total. Although the king Artaios advanced against him with eight hundred thousand soldiers, Parsondes defeated him in battle and killed more than fifty thousand of his followers, and drove the rest of the army out of the country of the Kadousians. For this achievement he was so admired by the people of the land that he was chosen king, and he plundered Media without ceasing and laid waste every district of the country. (5) And after he had attained great fame and was about to die of old age, he called to his side his successor to the throne and required of him an oath that the Kadousians should never put an end to their enmity towards the Medes, adding that, if peace were ever made with them, it meant the destruction of his line and of the entire descent group (genos) of the Kadousians. These, then, were the reasons why the Kadousians were always inveterate enemies of the Medes, and had never been subjected to the Median kings up to the time when Cyrus transferred the empire of the Medes to the Persians.

[Medes’ relations with Parthians]

34 After the death of Artaios, Ktesias continues, Artynes ruled over the Medes for twenty-two years, and Astibaras for forty. During the reign of the latter the Parthians revolted from the Medes and entrusted both their country and their city to the hands of the Sakians. This led to a war between the Sakians and the Medes, which lasted many years, and after no small number of battles and the loss of many lives on both sides, they finally agreed to peace on the following terms, that the Parthians should be subject to the Medes, but that both peoples should retain their former possessions and be friends and allies for ever.

[Aside on Sakians and their women]

At that time the Sakians were ruled by a woman named Zarina, who was devoted to warfare and was in daring and efficiency by far the foremost of the women of the Sakians. Now this people, in general, have courageous women who share with their husbands the dangers of war, but she, it is said, was the most conspicuous of them all for her beauty and remarkable as well in respect to both her designs and whatever she undertook. For she subdued such of the neighbouring barbarian peoples as had become proud because of their boldness and were trying to enslave the people of the Sakians, and into much of her own realm she introduced civilized life, founded not a few cities, and, in a word, made the life of her people happier. (5) Consequently after her death, the natives built her a tomb which was far the largest of any in their land in gratitude for her benefactions and in remembrance of her virtues. For they erected a triangular pyramid, making the length of each side three stadium-lengths and the height one stadion, and bringing it to a point at the top. On the tomb they also placed a colossal gilded statue of her and accorded her the honours belonging to heroes, and all the other honours they bestowed upon her were more magnificent than those which had fallen to the lot of her ancestors.

When, Ktesias continues, Astibaras, the king of the Medes, died of old age in Ekbatana, his son Aspandas, whom the Greeks call Astyages, succeeded to the throne. And when he had been defeated by Cyrus the Persian, the kingdom passed to the Persians. Regarding the Persians, we will give a detailed and exact account at the proper time [likely in the largely missing book 9, but see Photios’ summary below].


Photios, Bibliotheke, or Collection of Books, codex 72 = Ktesias, Persian Matters, especially books 7-23


Read Persian Matters (Persika) by Ktesias of Knidos in twenty-three books.

In the first six he treats Assyrian affairs and events before the foundation of the Persian empire, and only begins to treat of Persian affairs in the seventh book. [Photios largely ignores the Assyrian section, on which see Diodoros’ narrative above]

In books 7-13 he gives an account of Cyrus, Cambyses, the Magian, Darius, and Xerxes, in which he differs almost entirely from Herodotos, whom he accuses of falsehood in many passages and calls an inventor of fables. Ktesias is later than Herodotos, and says that he was an eyewitness of most of what he describes. He says that, where this was not the case, he obtained his information directly from Persians, and in this manner he composed his history. He not only disagrees with Herodotos, but also in some respects with Xenophon the son of Gryllos. Ktesias flourished in the time of Cyrus [the younger], son of Darius [II, reigning ca. 423-405 BCE] and Parysatis and brother of Artaxerxes, who succeeded to the throne [Artaxerxes II, reigning 405-358 BCE].

Ktesias begins by stating that Astyages (whom he also calls Astyigas) was not related to Cyrus; that he fled from him to Ekbatana and hid himself in the vaults of the royal palace with the aid of his daughter Amytis and her husband Spitamas; that Cyrus, when he came to the throne, gave orders that not only Spitamas and Amytis, but also their sons Spitakes and Megabernes should be put to the torture for assisting Astyigas; that the latter, to save his grandchildren from being tortured on his account, gave himself up and was taken and loaded with chains by Oibares; that shortly afterwards he was set free by Cyrus and honoured as his father; and, that his daughter Amytis was treated by him as a mother and afterwards became his wife. Her husband Spitamas, however, was put to death, because, when asked, he had falsely declared that he did not know where Astyigas was. In his account of these events Ktesias differs from Herodotos.

[Cyrus’ wars on Baktrians, Sakians, Lydians, Derbikians

He adds that Cyrus made war upon the Baktrians, without obtaining a decisive victory, but that when they learned that Astyigas had been adopted by Cyrus as his father, and Amytis as his mother and wife, they voluntarily submitted to Amytis and Cyrus. He also relates how Cyrus made war on the Sakians (Sakai), and took prisoner their king Amorges, the husband of Sparethra, who after her husband was captured collected an army of 300,000 men and 200,000 women. She made war upon Cyrus and defeated him. Amongst the large number of prisoners taken by the Sakians were Parmises, the brother of Amytis, and his three sons, who were subsequently released in exchange for Amorges.

Cyrus, assisted by Amorges, marched against Croesus and the city of Sardis. By the advice of Oibaras he set up wooden figures representing Persians round the walls, the sight of which so terrified the inhabitants that the city was easily taken. Before this, the son of Croesus was handed over as a hostage, the king himself having been deceived by a divine vision. Since Croesus was evidently contemplating treachery, his son was put to death before his eyes. Croesus’ mother, who was a witness of his execution, committed suicide by throwing herself from the walls. (5) After the city was taken Croesus fled for refuge to the temple of Apollo. He was put in chains three times and escapted invisibly from his bonds three times, although the temple was shut and sealed, and Oibaras was on guard. Those who had been prisoners with Croesus had their heads cut off, on suspicion of having conspired to release him. He was subsequently taken to the palace and bound more securely, but was again loosed by thunder and lightning sent from heaven. Finally Cyrus, against his will, set him free, treated him kindly from that time, and bestowed upon him a large city near Ekbatana, named Barene, in which there were five thousand horsemen and ten thousand peltasts, javelin-throwers, and archers.

Cyrus then sent Petisakas (or: Petisacas) the eunuch, who had great influence with him, to Persia to fetch Astyigas from the Barkanians [people of the Persian colony of Barka in Libya], he and his daughter Amytis being anxious to see him. Oibaras then advised Petisakas to leave Astyigas in some lonely spot, to perish of hunger and thirst, which he did. But the crime was revealed in a dream, and Petisakas, at the urgent request of Amytis, was handed over to her by Cyrus for punishment. She ordered his eyes to be dug out, had him flayed alive, and then crucified. Oibaras, afraid of suffering the same punishment, although Cyrus assured him that he would not allow it, starved himself to death by fasting for ten days. Astyigas was accorded a splendid funeral. His body had remained untouched by wild beasts in the wilderness, some lions having guarded it until it was removed by Petisakas.

Cyrus marched against the Derbikians (Derbikes) [a people located near Amu river on the Caspian Sea], whose king was Amoraios (or: Amoraeus). The Derbikians suddenly brought up some elephants which had been kept in ambush, and put Cyrus’ cavalry to flight. Cyrus himself fell from his horse, and an Indian wounded him mortally with a javelin under the thigh. The Indians fought on the side of the Derbikians and supplied them with elephants. Cyrus’ friends took him up while he was still alive and returned to camp. Many Persians and Derbikians were killed, to the number of ten thousand on each side.

Amorges, when he heard of what had happened to Cyrus, in great haste went to the assistance of the Persians with twenty thousand Sakian cavalry. In a subsequent engagement, the Persians and Sakians gained a brilliant victory, Amoraios, the king of the Derbikians, and his two sons being killed. Thirty thousand Derbicans and nine thousand Persians fell in the battle. The country then submitted to Cyrus.

Cyrus, when near his death, declared his elder son Cambyses king, his younger son Tanyoxarkes governor of Baktria, Chorasmia, Parthia, and Karmania (or: Carmania), free from tribute. Of the children of Spitamas, he appointed Spitakes satrap of the Derbikians, Megabernes of the Barkanians, bidding them obey their mother in everything. He also endeavored to make them friends with Amorges, bestowing his blessing on those who should remain on friendly terms with one another, and a curse upon those who first did wrong. With these words he died, three days after he had been wounded, after a reign of thirty years. This is the end of the eleventh book.

[Cambyses’ conquest of the Egyptians and the Magian deception]

(9) The twelfth book begins with the reign of Cambyses [reigning ca. 530-522 BCE). Immediately after his accession he sent his father’s body by the eunuch Bagapates to Persia for burial, and in all other respects carried out his father’s wishes. The men who had the greatest influence with him were Artasyras the Hyrkanian, and the eunuchs Izabates, Aspadates, and Bagapates, who had been his father’s favourite after the death of Petisakas.

(10) Bagapates was in command of the expedition against Egypt and its king Amyrtaios (or: Amyrtaeus), whom he defeated, through the treachery of his chief counselor Kombaphis (or: Combaphis) the eunuch, who betrayed the bridges and other important secrets, on condition that Cambyses made him governor of Egypt. Cambyses first made this arrangement with him through Izabates, the cousin of Kombaphis, and afterwards confirmed it by his personal promise. Having taken Amyrtaios alive he did him no harm, but merely removed him to Susa with six thousand Egyptians chosen by himself. The whole of Egypt then became subject to Cambyses. The Egyptians lost fifty thousand men in the battle, the Persians seven thousand.

In the meantime a certain Magian called Sphendadates [likely associated with the historical Bardiya / Gaumata, also sometimes called Smerdis by Greeks], who had been flogged by Tanyoxarkes for some offense, went to Cambyses and informed him that his brother was plotting against him. In proof of this he declared that Tanyoxarkes would refuse to come if summoned. Cambyses then summoned his brother, who, being engaged on another matter, put off coming. The Magian then accused him more freely. His mother Amytis, who suspected the Magian, advised Cambyses not to listen to him. Cambyses pretended not to believe him, while in reality he did. Being summoned by Cambyses a third time, Tanyoxarkes obeyed the summons. His brother embraced him, but nevertheless determined to put him to death. Unknown to his mother Amytis, he took measures to carry out his plan.

The Magian made the following suggestion. Being himself very like Tanyoxarkes, he advised the king publicly to order that his head should be cut off as having falsely accused the king’s brother; and, that in the meantime Tanyoxarkes should secretly be put to death, and he should be dressed in his clothes, so that Tanyoxarkes should be thought alive. Cambyses agreed to this. Tanyoxarkes was put to death by being forced to drink bull’s blood. The Magian put on his clothes and was mistaken for him by the people. The fraud was not known for a long time except to Artasyras, Bagapates, and Izabates, to whom alone Cambyses had entrusted the secret.

Then Cambyses, having summoned Labyzos, the chief of Tanyoxarkes’ eunuchs, and the other eunuchs, showed them the Magian seated and dressed in the guise of his brother, and asked them whether they thought he was Tanyoxarkes. Labyzos, in astonishment, replied, “Whom else should we think him to be?” The likeness was so great that he was deceived. The Magian was accordingly sent to Baktria, where he played the part of Tanyoxarkes. Five years later Amytis, having learned the truth from the eunuch Tibethis, whom the Magian had flogged, demanded that Cambyses should hand over Sphendadates to her, but he refused. At that point Amytis, after heaping curses upon him, drank poison and died.

On a certain occasion, while Cambyses was offering sacrifice, no blood flowed from the slaughtered victims. This greatly alarmed him, and the birth of a son without a head by Roxana increased this alarm. This portent was interpreted by the wise men to mean that he would leave no successor. His mother also appeared to him in a dream, threatening retribution for the murder he had committed, which alarmed him still more. At Babylon, while carving a piece of wood with a knife for his amusement, he accidentally wounded himself in the thigh, and died eleven days afterwards, in the eighteenth year of his reign.

(15) Bagapates and Artasyras, before the death of Cambyses, conspired to raise the Magian to the throne, as they afterwards did. Izabates, who had gone to convey the body of Cambyses to Persia, finding on his return that the Magian was reigning under the name of Tanyoxarkes, disclosed the truth to the army and exposed the Magian. After this he took refuge in a temple, where he was seized and put to death.

Then seven distinguished Persians conspired against the Magian. Their names were Onophas, Idernes, Norondabates, Mardonius, Barisses, Ataphernes, and Darius son of Hystaspes. After they had given and taken the most solemn pledges, they admitted to their scheme Artasyras and Bagapates, who kept all the keys of the palace. The seven, having been admitted into the palace by Bagapates, found the Magian asleep. At the sight of them he jumped up, but finding no weapon ready to hand (for Bagapates had secretly removed them all) he smashed a chair made of gold and defended himself with one of the legs, but was finally stabbed to death by the seven. He had reigned seven months.

[Darius’ campaign against the Scythians]

Darius [reigning ca. 522-486 BCE] was chosen king from the seven conspirators in accordance with a test agreed upon, his horse being the first to neigh after the sun had risen, the result of a cunning stratagem. The Persians celebrate the day on which the Magian was put to death by a festival called Magophonia. Darius ordered a tomb to be built for himself in a two-peaked mountain, but when he desired to go and see it he was dissuaded by the prophets and his parents. The latter, however, were anxious to make the ascent to it, but the priests who were dragging them up, being frightened at the sight of some snakes, let go the ropes and they fell and were dashed to pieces. Darius was greatly grieved and ordered the heads of the forty men who were responsible to be cut off.

(20) Darius ordered Ariaramnes, satrap of Cappadocia (or: Cappadocia), to cross over into Scythia, and carry off a number of prisoners, male and female. He went over in thirty penteconters, and among others took captive Marsagetes, the Scythian king’s brother, who had been imprisoned by his own brother for certain offenses. The ruler of the Scythians, being enraged, wrote an abusive letter to Darius, who replied in the same tone. Darius then collected an army of eight hundred thousand men and crossed the Bosporos and the Ister [Danube] river by a bridge of boats into Scythian territory in fifteen days. The two kings sent each other a bow in turn. Darius, seeing that the bow of the Scythians was stronger, turned back and fled across the bridges, destroying some of them in his haste before the entire army had crossed. Eighty thousand of his men, who had been left behind in Europe, were put to death by the ruler of the Scythians. Darius, after he had crossed the bridge, set fire to the houses and temples of the Chalcedonians, because they had attempted to break down the bridges which he had made near their city and had also destroyed the altar erected by him, when crossing, in honour of Zeus Diabaterios.

Datis, the commander of the Persian fleet, on his return from Pontos [Black Sea area], ravaged Greece and the islands. At Marathon he was met by Miltiades. The barbarians were defeated and Datis himself was killed, the Athenians afterwards refusing to give up his body at the request of the Persians. Darius then returned to Persia, where, after having offered sacrifice, he died after an illness of thirty days, in the seventy-second year of his age and the thirty-first of his reign. Artasyras and Bagapates also died, the latter having been for seven years the keeper of the tomb of Darius.

[Xerxes’ campaign against the Greeks and suppression of the revolt of the Babylonians]

Darius was succeeded by his son Xerxes [reigning ca. 486-465 BCE]. Artapanos the son of Artasyras had as great an influence over Xerxes as his father had had over Darius. His other confidential advisers were the aged Mardonios and Matakas the eunuch. Xerxes married Amestris, the daughter of Onophas, who bore him a son, Darius, two years afterwards Hystaspes and Artaxerxes, and two daughters, one named Rhodogyne and another called Amytis after her grandmother.

(25) Xerxes decided to make war upon Greece, because the Chalcedonians had attempted to break down the bridge as already stated and had destroyed the altar which Darius had set up, and because the Athenians had killed Datis and refused to give up his body. But first he visited Babylon, being desirous of seeing the tomb of Belitanes, which Mardonios showed him. But he was unable to fill the vessel of oil, as had been written.

From there he proceeded to Ekbatana, where he heard of the revolt of the Babylonians and the murder of Zopyros their satrap. Ktesias‘ account is different from that of Herodotos. What the latter relates of Zopyros is attributed by Ktesias, with the exception of his mule giving birth to a foal, to Megabyzos, the son-in-law of Xerxes and the husband of his daughter Amytis. Babylon was taken by Megabyzos, upon whom Xerxes bestowed, amongst other rewards, a golden hand-mill, weighing six talents, the most honourable of the royal gifts.

Then Xerxes, having collected a Persian army, eight hundred thousand men and one thousand ships with three banks of oars (triremes) without reckoning the chariots, set out against Greece, having first thrown a bridge across at Abydos. Demaratus the Spartan, who arrived there first and accompanied Xerxes across, dissuaded him from invading Sparta. His general Artapanos, with ten thousand men, fought an engagement with Leonidas, the Spartan general, at Thermopylae; the Persian host was cut to pieces, while only two or three of the Spartans were killed. The king then ordered an attack with twenty thousand, but these were defeated, and although flogged to the battle, were routed again. The next day he ordered an attack with fifty thousand, but without success, and accordingly ceased operations. Thorax the Thessalian and Kalliades and Timaphernes, the leaders of the Trachinians, who were present with their forces, were summoned by Xerxes together with Demaratus and Hegias the Ephesian, who told him that the Spartans could never be defeated unless they were surrounded. A Persian army of forty thousand men was conducted by the two leaders of the Trachinians over an almost inaccessible mountain-path to the rear of the Lacedaemonians, who were surrounded and died bravely to a man.

Xerxes sent another army of one hundred and twenty thousand men against Plataia under the command of Mardonius, at the instigation of the Thebans. He was opposed by Pausanias the Spartan, with only three hundred Spartans, one thousand inhabitants of dependent territories (perioikoi), and six thousand from the other cities. The Persians suffered a severe defeat, Mardonios being wounded and obliged to take to flight. He was afterwards sent by Xerxes to plunder the temple of Apollo, where he is said to have died from injuries received during a terrible hailstorm, to the great grief of Xerxes.

(30) Xerxes then advanced against Athens itself, the inhabitants of which manned one hundred and tent ships with three banks of oars (triremes) and took refuge in Salamis. Xerxes took possession of the empty city and set fire to it, with the exception of the acropolis, which was defended by a small band of men who had remained. At last, they also made their escape by night, and the acropolis was burned. After this, Xerxes proceeded to a narrow strip of land in Attica called Herakleion, and began to construct an embankment in the direction of Salamis, intending to cross over on foot. By the advice of the Athenians Themistokles and Aristides archers were summoned from Crete. Then a naval engagement took place between the Greeks with seven hundred ships and the Persians with more than one thousand under Onophas. The Athenians were victorious, thanks to the advice and clever strategy of Aristides and Themistokles. The Persians lost five hundred ships, and Xerxes took to flight. In the remaining battles twelve thousand Persians were killed.

Xerxes, having crossed over into Asia and advanced towards Sardis, dispatched Megabyzos to plunder the temple at Delphi. On his refusing to go, the eunuch Matakas was sent in his place, to insult Apollo and plunder the temple. Having carried out his orders he returned to Xerxes, who in the meantime had arrived in Persis from Babylon. Here Megabyzos accused his wife Amytis (the daughter of Xerxes) of having committed adultery. Xerxes severely reprimanded her, but she declared that she was not guilty. Artapanos and Aspamitres the eunuch, the confidential advisers of Xerxes, resolved to kill their master. Having done so, they persuaded Artaxerxes that his brother Darius had murdered him. Darius was taken to the palace of Artaxerxes, and, although he vehemently denied the accusation, he was put to death.

[Artaxerxes and revolts of the Baktrians and Egyptians]

So Artaxerxes became king [reigning ca. 465-424 BCE], thanks to Artapanos, who entered into a conspiracy against him with Megabyzos (who was bitterly aggrieved at the suspicion of adultery against his wife) , each taking an oath to remain loyal to the other. Nevertheless, Megabyzos revealed the plot, the guilty conduct of Artapanos came to light, and he met the death which he had intended for Artaxerxes. Aspamitres, who had taken part in the murders of Xerxes and Darius was cruelly put to death, being exposed in the trough. After the death of Artapanos there was a battle between his fellow-conspirators and the other Persians, in which the three sons of Artapanos were killed and Megabyzos severely wounded. Artaxerxes, Amytis, and Rhodogyne, and their mother Amestris were deeply grieved, and his life was only saved by the skill and attention of Apollonides, a physician of Kos.

(35) Baktra and its satrap, another Artapanos, revolted from Artaxerxes. The first battle was indecisive, but in a second, the Baktrians were defeated because the wind blew in their faces, and the whole of Baktria submitted.

Egypt, under the leadership of Inaros a Libyan, assisted by a native of the country, also revolted, and preparations were made for war. At the request of Inaros the Athenians sent forty ships to his aid. Artaxerxes himself was desirous of taking part in the expedition, but his friends dissuaded him. He therefore sent Achaimenides (or: Achaemenides) his brother with four hundred thousand infantry and eighty ships. Inaros joined battle with Achaimenides, the Egyptians were victorious, Achaimenides being killed by Inaros and his body sent to Artaxerxes. Inaros was also successful at sea. Charitimides, the commander of the forty Athenian ships, covered himself with glory in a naval engagement, in which twenty out of fifty Persian ships were captured with their crews, and the remaining thirty sunk.

The king then sent Megabyzos against Inaros, with an additional army of two hundred thousand men and three hundred ships commanded by Oriscus; so that, not counting the ships’ crews, his army consisted of five hundred thousand. For, when Achaimenides fell, one hundred thousand of his four hundred thousand men perished. A desperate battle ensued, in which the losses were heavy on both sides, although those of the Egyptians were heavier. Megabyzos wounded Inaros in the thigh, and put him to flight, and the Persians obtained a complete victory. Inaros fled to Byblos, an Egyptian stronghold, accompanied by those of the Greeks who had not been killed in battle. Then all Egypt, except Byblos, submitted to Megabyzos. But since this stronghold appeared impregnable, he came to terms with Inaros and the Greeks (six thousand and more in number), on condition that they should suffer no harm from the king, and that the Greeks should be allowed to return home whenever they pleased.

Having appointed Sarsamas satrap of Egypt, Megabyzos took Inaros and the Greeks to Artaxerxes, who was greatly enraged with Inaros because he had killed his brother Achaimenides. Megabyzos told him what had happened, how he had given his word to Inaros and the Greeks when he occupied Byblos, and earnestly entreated the king to spare their lives. The king consented, and the news that no harm would come to Inaros and the Greeks was immediately reported to the army.

But Amestris, aggrieved at the idea that Inaros and the Greeks should escape punishment for the death of her son Achaimenides, asked the king to give them up to her, but he refused. She then appealed to Megabyzos, who also dismissed her. At last, however, through her constant importunity she obtained her wish from her son, and after five years the king gave up Inaros and the Greeks to her. Inaros was impaled on three stakes; fifty of the Greeks, all that she could lay hands on, were decapitated.

[Megabyzos’ conspiracy and other soap-opera like intrigues]

(40) Megabyzos was deeply grieved at this, and asked permission to retire to his satrapy, Syria. Having secretly sent the rest of the Greeks there in advance, on his arrival he collected a large army (one hundred and fifty thousand not including cavalry) and raised the standard of revolt. Usiris with two hundred thousand men was sent against him; a battle took place, in which Megabyzos and Usiris wounded each other. Usiris inflicted a wound with a spear in Megabyzos’ thigh two fingers deep. Megabyzos in turn first wounded Usiris in the thigh and then in the shoulder, so that he fell from his horse. Megabyzos, as he fell, protected him, and ordered that he should be spared. Many Persians were killed in the battle, in which Zopyros and Artyphios, the sons of Megabyzos, distinguished themselves, and Megabyzos gained a decisive victory. Usiris received the greatest attention and was sent to Artaxerxes at his request.

Another army was sent against him under Menostanes the son of Artarios, satrap of Babylon and brother of Artaxerxes. Another battle took place, in which the Persians were defeated. Menostanes was shot by Megabyzos, first in the shoulder and then in the head, but the wound was not mortal. However, he fled with his army and Megabyzos gained a brilliant victory.

Artarios then sent to Megabyzos, advising him to come to terms with the king. Megabyzos replied that he was ready to do so, but on condition that he should not be obliged to appear at court again, and should be allowed to remain in his satrapy. When his answer was reported to the king, the Paphlagonian eunuch Artoxares and Amestris urged him to make peace without delay. Accordingly, Artarios, his wife Amytis, Artoxares (then twenty years of age), and Petisas, the son of Usiris and father of Spitamas, were sent for that purpose to Megabyzos. After many entreaties and solemn promises, with great difficulty they succeeded in persuading Megabyzos to visit the king, who finally pardoned him for all his offenses.

Some time afterwards, while the king was out hunting he was attacked by a lion, which Megabyzos killed as it reared and was preparing to rush upon him. The king, enraged because Megabyzos had killed the animal first, ordered his head to be cut off, but owing to the entreaties of Amestris, Amytis, and others his life was spared and he was banished to Kurtai, a town on the Red Sea. Artoxares the eunuch was also banished to Armenia for having often spoken freely to the king in favour of Megabyzos. After having passed five years in exile, Megabyzos escaped by pretending to be a leper, whom no one might approach, and returned home to Amytis, who hardly recognized him. On the intercession of Amestris and Amytis, the king became reconciled to him and admitted him to his table as before. Megabyzos died at the age of seventy-six, deeply mourned by the king.

After his death, his wife Amytis, like her mother Amestris before her, showed great fondness for the society of men. The physician Apollonides of Kos, when Amytis was suffering from a slight illness, being called in to attend her, fell in love with her. For some time they carried on an intrigue, but finally she told her mother. She in turn informed the king, who left her to do as she would with the offender. Apollonides was kept in chains for two months as a punishment, and then buried alive on the same day that Amytis died.

(45) Zopyros, the son of Megabyzos and Amytis, after the death of his father and mother revolted against the king. He visited Athens, where he was well received owing to the services his mother had rendered to the Athenians. From Athens he sailed with some Athenian troops to Kaunos and summoned it to surrender. The inhabitants expressed themselves ready to do so, provided the Athenians who accompanied him were not admitted. While Zopyros was mounting the wall, a Kaunian named Alkides hit him on the head with a stone and killed him. The Kaunian was crucified by order of his grandmother Amestris. Some time afterwards, Amestris died at a great age, and Artaxerxes also died after having reigned forty-two years. Here the seventeenth book ends.

[Xerxes II short lived]

Artaxerxes was succeeded by his son Xerxes [reigning only ca. 424 BCE], his only legitimate son by Damaspia, who died on the same day as her husband. The bodies of the king and queen were conveyed by Bagorazos to Persis. Artaxerxes had seventeen illegitimate sons, amongst them Sogdianos by Alogyne the Babylonian, Ochos (afterwards king) and Arsites by Kosmartidene, also a Babylonian. Besides these three, he also had a son Bagapaios and a daughter Parysatis by Andria, also a Babylonian, who became the mother of Artaxerxes and Cyrus. During his father’s lifetime, Ochos was made satrap of Hyrkania, and given in marriage to Parysatis, the daughter of Artaxerxes and his own sister.


Sogdianos (Sekydianos) [reigning ca. 424-423 BCE], having won over the eunuch Pharnakyas, who had the greatest influence over Xerxes next to Bagorazos, Menostanes, and some others, entered the palace after a festival, while Xerxes was lying in a drunken sleep and put him to death, forty-five days after the death of his father. The bodies of both father and son were conveyed together to Persis, for the mules which drew the chariot in which was the father’s body, refused to move, as if waiting for that of the son; and when it arrived, they at once went on rapidly.

So Sogdianos became king and appointed Menostanes his azabarites. After Bagorazos returned to court, Sogdianos, who cherished a long-standing enmity against him, on the pretext that he had left his father’s body in Persis without his permission, ordered him to be stoned to death. The army was greatly grieved, and, although Sogdianos distributed large sums amongst the soldiers, they hated him for the murder of his brother Xerxes and now for that of Bagorazos. (50) Sogdianos, then summoned Ochos to court, who promised to present himself but failed to do so. After he had been summoned several times, he collected a large force with the obvious intention of seizing the throne. He was joined by Arbarios, commander of the cavalry, and Arxanes, satrap of Egypt. The eunuch Artoxares also came from Armenia and placed the crown on the head of Ochos against his will.

[Darius II’s reign]

Thus Ochos became king and changed his name to Darius [II, reigning ca. 423-404 BCE]. At the suggestion of Parysatis, he endeavored by trickery and solemn promises to win over Sogdianos. Menostanes did all he could to prevent Sogdianos from putting faith in these promises or coming to terms with those who were trying to deceive him. In spite of this Sogdianos allowed himself to be persuaded, was arrested, thrown into the ashes, and died, after a reign of six months and fifteen days. Ochos (also called Darius) thus became sole ruler. Three eunuchs, Artoxares, Artibarzanes, and Athous had the greatest influence with him, but his chief adviser was his wife. By her he had had two children before he became king, a daughter Amestris and a son Arsakes, afterwards called Artaxerxes. After his accession she bore him another son, called Cyrus from the sun. A third son was named Artostes, who was followed by several others, to the number of thirteen. The writer says that he obtained these particulars from Parysatis herself.

Most of the children soon died, the only survivors being those just mentioned and a fourth named Oxendras. Arsites, his own brother by the same father and mother, revolted against the king together with Artyphios the son of Megabyzos. Artasyras was sent against them, and, having been defeated in two battles, gained the victory in a third, after he had bribed the Greeks, who were with Artyphios, so that only three Milesians remained faithful to him. At length Artyphios, finding that Arsites did not appear, surrendered to the king, after Artasyras had solemnly promised him that his life should be spared. The king was anxious to put Artyphios to death, but Parysatis advised him not to do so at once, in order to deceive Arsites and induce him also to submit; when both had surrendered, she said they could both be put to death. The plan succeeded, Artyphios and Arsites surrendered, and were thrown into the ashes. The king wished to pardon Arsites, but Parysatis by her importunity persuaded him to put him to death. Pharnakyas, who had assisted Sogdianos to kill Xerxes, was stoned to death. Menostanes was also arrested and condemned, but anticipated his fate by suicide.

Pissuthnes also revolted, and Tissaphernes, Spithradates, and Parmises were sent against him. Pissuthnes set out to meet them with Lycon the Athenian and a body of Greeks, who were bribed by the king’s generals to desert him. Pissuthnes then surrendered, and, after having received assurances that his life should be spared, accompanied Tissaphernes to the court. But the king ordered him to be thrown into the ashes and gave his satrapy to Tissaphernes. Lycon also received several towns and districts as the reward of his treachery.

Artoxares the eunuch, who had great influence with the king, desiring to obtain possession of the throne himself, plotted against his master. He ordered his wife to make him a false beard and mustache, that he might look like a man. His wife, however, betrayed him; he was seized, handed over to Parysatis, and put to death.

(55) Arsakes the king’s son, who afterwards changed his name to Artaxerxes, married Statira, daughter of Hydarnes, whose son Terituchmes, who had been appointed to his father’s satrapy after his death, married the king’s daughter Amestris. Terituchmes had a half-sister Roxana, of great beauty and very skillful in bending the bow and hurling the spear. Terituchmes having fallen in love with her and conceived a hatred of his wife Amestris, in order to get rid of the latter, resolved to put her into a sack, where she was to be stabbed to death by three hundred accomplices, with whom he had entered into a conspiracy to raise a revolt. But a certain Udiastes, who had great influence with Terituchmes, having received letters from the king promising to reward him generously if he could save his daughter, attacked and murdered Terituchmes, who courageously defended himself and killed (it is said) thirty-seven of his assailants.

Mitradates, the son of Udiastes, the armor-bearer of Terituchmes, took no part in this affair, and when he learned what had happened, he cursed his father and seized the city of Zaris to hand over to the son of Terituchmes. Parysatis ordered the mother of Terituchmes, his brothers Mitrostes and Helicus, and his sisters except Statira to be put to death. Roxana was hewn in pieces alive. The king told his wife Parysatis to inflict the same punishment upon the wife of his son Arsakes. But Arsakes by his tears and lamentations appeased the wrath of his father and mother. Parysatis having relented, Ochos spared Statira’s life, but at the same time told Parysatis that she would one day greatly regret it.

[Artaxerxes II]

In the nineteenth book the author relates how Ochos Darius fell sick and died at Babylon, having reigned thirty-five years. Arsakes, who succeeded him, changed his name to Artaxerxes [reigning ca. 405-358 BCE]. Udiastes had his tongue cut out and torn out by the roots behind; and so he died. His son Mitradates was appointed to his satrapy. This was due to the instigation of Statira, whereat Parysatis was greatly aggrieved. Cyrus, being accused by Tissaphernes of designs on the life of his brother Artaxerxes, took refuge with his mother, by whose intervention he was cleared of the charge. Disgraced by his brother, he retired to his satrapy and laid his plans for revolt. (60) Satibarzanes accused Orontes of an intrigue with Parysatis, although her conduct was irreproachable. Orontes was put to death, and his mother was greatly enraged against the king, because Parysatis had poisoned the son of Terituchmes. The author also mentions him who cremated his father contrary to the law, Hellanikos and Herodotos being thus convicted of falsehood. Cyrus having revolted against his brother collected an army composed of both Greeks and barbarians. Klearchos was in command of the Greeks; Syennesis, king of Cilicia (or: Cilicia), assisted both Cyrus and Artaxerxes.

The author then reports the speeches of the two princes to their troops. Klearchos the Spartan, who was in command of the Greeks, and Menon the Thessalian, who accompanied Cyrus, were always at variance, because Cyrus took the advice of Klearchos in everything, while Menon was disregarded. Large numbers deserted from Artaxerxes to Cyrus, none from Cyrus to Artaxerxes. For this reason Artabarios, who meditated desertion, was accused and thrown into the ashes. Cyrus attacked the king’s army and gained the victory, but lost his life by neglecting the advice of Klearchos. His body was mutilated by Artaxerxes, who ordered his head and the hand with which he had struck him to be cut off, and carried them about in triumph. (65) Klearchos the Spartan withdrew during the night with his Greeks, and after he had seized one of the cities belonging to Parysatis, the king made peace with him.

Parysatis set out for Babylon, mourning for the death of Cyrus, and having with difficulty recovered his head and hand sent them to Susa for burial. It was Bagapates who had cut off his head by order of Artaxerxes. Parysatis, when playing at dice with the king, won the game and Bagapates as the prize, and afterwards had him flayed alive and crucified. At length she was persuaded by the entreaties of Artaxerxes to give up mourning for her son. The king rewarded the soldier who brought him Cyrus’ cap, and the Karian who was supposed to have wounded him, whom Parysatis afterwards tortured and put to death. Mitradates having boasted at table of having killed Cyrus, Parysatis demanded that he should be given up to her, and having got him into her hands, put him to death with great cruelty. Such is the contents of the nineteenth and twentieth books.

The twenty-first, twenty-second, and twenty-third books conclude the history. Tissaphernes began to plot against the Greeks, with the assistance of Menon the Thessalian, whom he had won over. In this manner, by cunning and solemn promises, he got Klearchos and the other generals in his power, although Klearchos suspected and was on his guard against treachery and endeavored to avert it; but the soldiers, being deceived by the words of Menon, compelled the unwilling Klearchos to visit Tissaphernes. Proxenus the Boeotian, who had been already deceived, also advised him to go. Klearchos and the other generals were sent in chains to Artaxerxes at Babylon, where all the people flocked to see Klearchos.

[Ktesias’ direct involvement in developments]

Ktesias himself, Parysatis’ physician, bestowed every attention upon Klearchos while he was in prison and did all he could to mitigate his condition. Parysatis would have given him his freedom and let him go, had not Statira persuaded the king to put him to death. After his execution, a marvelous thing happened. A strong wind sprang up and heaped a quantity of earth upon his body, which formed a natural tomb. The other Greeks who had been sent with him were also put to death, with the exception of Menon.

(70) The author next tells us about the insults heaped by Parysatis on Statira, and the poisoning of Statira, which was brought about in the following manner, although she had long been on her guard against this kind of death. A table knife was smeared with poison on one side. One of the little birds, about the size of an egg, called rhyndake, was cut in half by Parysatis, who herself took and ate the portion which had not been touched by the poison, at the same time offering Statira the poisoned half. Statira, seeing that Parysatis was eating her own portion, had no suspicions, and took the fatal poison. The king, enraged with his mother, ordered her eunuchs to be seized and tortured, including her chief confidant Ginge. The latter, being accused and brought to trial, was acquitted by the judges, but the king condemned her and ordered her to be tortured and put to death, which caused a lasting quarrel between mother and son. The tomb of Klearchos, eight years afterwards, was found covered with palm trees, which Parysatis had had secretly planted by her eunuchs.

The author next states the cause of the quarrel of Artaxerxes with Euagoras, king of Salamis. The messengers sent by Euagoras to Ktesias about the receiving of letters from Abuletes. The letter of Ktesias to Euagoras concerning reconciliation with Anaxagoras prince of the Kyprians. The return of the messengers of Euagoras to Kypros and the delivery of the letters from Ktesias to Euagoras.

The speech of Konon to Euagoras about visiting the king; and the letter of Euagoras on the honours he had received from him. The letter of Konon to Ktesias, the agreement of Euagoras to pay tribute to the king, and the giving of the letters to Ktesias. Speech of Ktesias to the king about Konon and the letter to him. The presents sent by Euagoras delivered to Satibarzanes; the arrival of the messengers in Kypros. The letters of Konon to the king and Ktesias. The detention of the Spartan ambassadors to the king. Letter from the king to Konon and the Spartans, delivered to them by Ktesias himself. Konon appointed commander of the fleet by Pharnabazus. (75) The visit of Ktesias to Knidos, his native city, and to Sparta. Proceedings against the Spartan ambassadors at Rhodes, and their acquittal. The number of stations, days, and parasangs from Ephesos to Baktria and India.

The work concludes with a list of the Assyrian kings from Ninos and Semiramis to Artaxerxes.

[Photios’ comments on Ktesias’ writing]

This writer’s style is clear and very simple, which makes the work agreeable to read. He uses the Ionic dialect, not throughout, as Herodotos does, but only in certain expressions. Nor does he, like Herodotos, interrupt the thread of his narrative by ill-timed digressions. Although he reproaches Herodotos for his old wives’ tales, he is not free from the same defect, especially in his account of India. The charm of his history chiefly consists in his manner of relating events, which is strong in the emotional and unexpected, and in his varied use of mythical embellishment. The style is more careless than it should be, and the phraseology often descends to the commonplace. On the other hand, the style of Herodotos, both in this and other respects as far as vigour and art are concerned, is the model representative of the Ionic dialect.

[For Photios’ subsequent summary of Indian Matters, go to this link].

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