I was at the busy port of Halicarnassus one day, when I stopped at the city square to listen to a storyteller. He told grand tales of the magnificent kings of Persia who dwelt in gleaming palaces, who demanded tribute from thousands of kinds of people: gold from the Indians, warhorses from the Medes, jewels from the Aghans, silver from the Egyptians, soldiers from the wildmen of the north. These great kings never showed their faces to the common people, and even the princes and nobles at his court could not laugh or spit in his presence. They had to cover their mouths when they were around him, in order not to pollute the air that the Great King breathed. Now I myself take these fairytales lightly. If no one has ever seen the king, where do these stories come from? But one particular story struck my fancy. Continue reading “fate epilogue: tradition is the king of all”
fate pt 6: the ruin of Samos
When Polycrates, ruler of Samos died, a victim of his own greed, his power and riches passed to his steward Maeandrius.
Now Maeandrius was a good man, who wanted nothing more than justice for the Samians. He assembled them and said to them, “People of Samos, you know that all the authority held by Polycrates has passed on to me. If I wanted to, I could rule all of you as he has done. But I do not wish to, for I refuse to lord it over people equal to myself. I will proclaim everyone equal before the law. All I ask in return is a share in Polycrates’ riches, and the right for my family and I to serve as priests.” Continue reading “fate pt 6: the ruin of Samos”
fate pt 5: the fate of Polycrates
Nestled in the shadow of the Persian Empire was the island of Samos. The Samians were a proud people, good sailors. Now the rulership of Samos had fallen into the hands of one man, Polycrates, son of Aiaces, a king in all but name.
In those days the emerald waters of the eastern Aegean Sea were not yet completely ruled by the Great King of Persia. So this Polycrates, with his magnificent wealth, became the greatest of the seafaring kings. He had built for himself a fleet of one hundred warships, and an army of one thousand paid bowmen. Everywhere he sent his fleet he met with victory; he could rob any island he wanted, then return what he had stolen as a sign of friendship. Continue reading “fate pt 5: the fate of Polycrates”
fate pt 4: the death of King Cyrus
When King Cyrus the Great was approaching the end of his days, he was consumed with desire to conquer the wild horsemen of the north. Queen Tomyris of the sun-worshipping Massagetae was his next target. Her husband had died and now she was the sole ruler of her people. So King Cyrus asked for her hand in marriage. But she refused, for Tomyris was wise as she was fair. She knew that it was not her, but her people, that Cyrus wanted. “King of the Persians,” she wrote to him, “I know that you are a great and powerful man. Do not covet my land, for it will end badly for you. Rule your own people, and let me rule mine.” Now the lands of the Massagetae were wide and empty; a man could ride for days and not see a single tree, lake or mountain. Entire armies could be swallowed up by the wilderness. Yet such was the desire of King Cyrus, that he gathered his army and marched to conquer Tomyris and her people. Continue reading “fate pt 4: the death of King Cyrus”