Wednesday, 31 October 2012


After a siege gruelling beyond belief, the First Crusade had added the great city of Antioch to their list of extraordinary triumphs against the odds. The faltering cause had strength anew, as the Lance that pierced Christ's side at the Crucifixion was discovered at the last moment. The last great hurdle between the crusaders and the Holy City had been lifted, and the road to Jerusalem lay yonder...

The Angel of the Lord spurs on the Crusaders
Engraving by Gustave Doré
The euphoria from the triumph over Kerbogha took a long while to die down. As the dust cleared on the 29th June 1098, Christian's fell to their knees and gave thanks to God, for invulnerability, it seemed, was theirs now. But scarcely had that dust cleared when dissent struck the leadership of the Crusade. Scheming Bohemond, the Prince of Taranto, argued that the Emperor of Constantinople had deserted them, rendering the oaths they had all sworn before Alexius void. As the one who had ultimately prised open the formidable defences of Antioch, many argued that the city should come under his rule, many others disagreed. Most vocal was Count Raymond of Toulouse, a key leader of the Crusade, along with many others. The deeply pious Raymond scorned the hot-headed and flagrantly ambitious Bohemond, but was unable to sway a majority in the crusader noble council. For months was the crusade paralysed by infighting, and whilst it seemed the arguments were without end, supplies were not. The wretched famine that had so plagued the crusaders before Antioch fell had not abated, and now began to grow worse still. In desperation, for the already poverty stricken peasants in Syria refused to offer food, the crusaders turned their wrath upon the city of Maarrat, seizing it after a swift siege. Famine was so terrible at this point that the unthinkable was forced into horrifying reality. So weak they could barely stand, the crusaders were forced to resort to cannibalism, and the armed pilgrimage was "placed  in the cruel necessity of feeding itself upon the bodies of the Saracens". Vile pestilence stalked the streets of the crusader camp, retribution of the divine or of nature, who could say? Men and horses began to fall to the desert sand, never to rise again. Soon Adhemar, the papal legate of the Crusade who bore the Holy Lance, lay dead. Winter came, and cold amplified all perils, as Death followed the Crusade wherever it went. At last, their patience boiled over, the lesser knights and pilgrims of the Crusade threatened to march alone and leaderless to the Holy City if the situation were not resolved immediately. The year 1099 arrived, and the First Crusade took to the road once again, leaving Bohemond behind. So was formed one of the first of the Crusader States in the Holy Land - the Principality of Antioch, with Bohemond her first Prince. Another crusader leader, Baldwin of Boulogne, had broken off from the Crusade to form the County of Edessa, another Crusader State. The First Crusade, grand vision of Christendom, was faltering.

South the grand pilgrimage marched, passing many great cities of old. Tyre, Sidon and Acre, were all passed by with eerie peace, as all preferred to make peace than war with the Crusade, depleted though it was. Of over a hundred thousand pilgrims who took the cross, scarcely twelve thousand now survived to march on Jerusalem, and a mere twelve hundred knights. Only a handful of horses now remained. Word from those Christian peasants in those lands, who braved to make contact, told of the horrors the Turks had unleashed upon them, torture and forced conversion of their children. The Surian people, mostly Christian, advised Godfrey of Bouillon, Raymond and Tancred the nephew of Bohemond to take the path South, for the road through Damascus was not safe, for water would not be found for two days. The mountains of the Lebanon offered shelter, and good supplies of water, but the ground was too rugged for pack animals and camels. Only the coastal plain remained open, alongside Tripoli. Godfrey, the Duke of Lorraine, exhorted his fellows to action, and roused the crusader spirit once again. The crusaders gathered the relics from the churches of Antioch, and prepared for the final push.

The Crusaders lay Siege to Jerusalem
Engraving by Gustave Doré 
After an arduous journey under the burning Sun, there appeared on the horizon a sight many thought they would never see. Four years since Pope Urban II gave that momentous speech, words that shook the world,  the Holy City of Jerusalem was there on the horizon within sight at last! So many had fallen on the Great Expedition, tens of thousands who had left home in search of salvation, or a better life, now saw a place in their dreams. Many fell to their knees and wept, after so long and so much suffering. Raymond leapt off his horse in amazement at the sight, and donned the attire of a humble pilgrim. The fire of zeal rippled through the crusader ranks. Men of the West had heard of the city where Christ suffered only through the Bible, through fragmented stories of travellers, a place at the furthest ends of the Earth. Yet here it lay, in all its splendour, in physical, and visible, form at last. Back in Antioch, Peter Bartholomew had a vision in his dreams that Jerusalem, and the Kingdom of Heaven, would be theirs if they approached barefoot the walls of the Holy City, but here in the euphoria, his words of warning lay forgotten, and silent. The same could not happen here as at Antioch, to lay Jerusalem under siege until surrender was impossible. Too few crusaders were left, the countryside was harsh, scant of food, water and wood, and the danger of relief from the slowly uniting Muslim nations was terrifying. It was now or never. Without delay, the crusaders set up position around Jerusalem, preparing for the final onslaught, well aware that the outcome of this would be remembered in history for all times.

June 7th, 1099, arrived. Duke Robert of Normandy, and Count Robert of Flanders took up position to the north by the Church of the Blessed Stephen, where the martyr was stoned to death in ancient times. Duke Godfrey and Tancred set up camp to the West, and Count Raymond established base at the foot of Mount Zion, by the Church of the Blessed Mary, in the very place where legend had said that the Virgin Mary had departed the World, and where Christ had broken bread with his Disciples. On the third day, foraging parties encountered a band of Saracen troops whilst intent on plunder. After a brief struggle their foes were overcome, and thirty horses seized. Morale in the Christian camp soared. One crusader leader encountered a hermit on the Mount of Olives. "If you will attack the city tomorrow till the ninth hour, the Lord will deliver it into your hands", the wizened sage declared. "But we have not the necessary machinery for storming the walls", said the leader. "God is all powerful", said he, "If He wills, He will storm the walls even with one ladder. The Lord aids those who labor for the truth". The next day, the crusaders hurled themselves against the defenders of Jerusalem, the soldiers of the Egyptian Fatimid Caliphate, and fought with such fury that the city would have fallen that day had siege engines been ready at hand. The defenders were thrown back from the outer wall, which the Christians threw down, but held the inner walls firm. Many Christians fell, but many more of the Caliph's men. Food supplies were almost out, and for nine days the crusaders were forced to go without bread. On the tenth day, word came from the nearby port of Jaffa - ships from Genoa had been sighted, laden with supplies - aid was coming! Daylight came, and a hundred of Raymond's knights rushed to Jaffa, scarcely a day's march from Jerusalem, desperate for food. Spying many hundreds of Arabian soldiers rushing to cut them off, thirty of the most zealous Christian knights charged. Great chaos was sown, yet surrounded now were the foolhardy men. A messenger hurtled toward the main vanguard "Why do you dally here with your knights? Lo! All your comrades are in the clutches of Arabs, Turks and Saracens, perhaps even dead at this very minute. Hurry, hurry to their aid!" The man's words sparked fire in the crusaders who galloped to the aid of their brethren. So spirited was the charge that each knight conquered his foe, and the Arabs were sent reeling, and one hundred and three horses were captured. Spirits soared in the Christian camp at the news.

The Siege of Jerusalem
Image taken from a 13th century French
Illuminated Manuscipt
Yet ills abounded of their own for the crusaders. Water had all but disappeared. So desperate were they, that knight, lord and peasant alike sewed together the skins of oxen, buffalo and goats into leather skins and lugged water for over six miles under the unbearable heat of the desert. So foul and putrid was the water than disease, bane of the Crusade, ran rampant through the camp. Only the Fountain of Siloam at the foot of Zion released clean water, but only once every three days. Water was sold at so steep a price that a man could scarcely quench his terrible thirst for a fortune in gold. But hope remained with the arrival of aid from the coast. A party of Genoese under Guglielmo Embriaco appeared on the horizon, bringing skilled engineers and much needed timber to the crusaders. Without delay they set about raising mighty Siege Towers and ladders galore, whilst the defenders matched them in equal measure, strengthening the walls where they were weak, and raising the towers. There then came one night a vision of the fallen Adhemar to Peter Desiderius. The voice of the spirit commanded:

     " You who have come from distant lands to worship God and the Lord of hosts,
        purge yourselves of your uncleanliness, and let each one turn from his evil ways.
        Then with bare feet march around Jerusalem invoking God, and you must also
        fast. If you do this and them make a great attack on the city on the ninth day,
        it will be captured. If yo do not, all the evils that you have suffered will be
        multiplied by the Lord..."
                      - THE COMMAND OF ADHEMAR

The clergy in the Christian camp were afire at this news. Recognising the great evil that had been committed by many of the crusaders, they urged all to turn to each other as brothers, and lay aside their quarrels, and humble themselves before God. Their words fell on joyful ears as they addressed the princes and paupers of Europe. On the next Friday after three days of fasting, the priests lead the way, clad in their sacred vestments, marching before the sign of the cross, with lord, knight and peasant alike in tow, all barefoot in their great procession. It was as the days of Joshua, who lead the procession alongside the walls of Jericho, in most ancient times. High on the walls of Jerusalem, the Fatimid garrison jeered, raising crosses and striking them with their blades. Unfazed,  the crusaders stopped on the Mount of Olives, at the spot men say that Christ was taken into Heaven, whereupon a great speech was made to the gathered pilgrims that now they were here in all places , "we can do nothing more to purify ourselves, let each one of us forgive his brother whom he has injured, that the Lord many forgive us". News arrived that reinforcements were on their way from Egypt to drive the crusaders from the Holy Lands once and for all. It was now or never. The First Crusade would end in with the capture of Jerusalem now, or it would end in total disaster here at the very end.

Godfrey of Bouillon
Fresco by Giacomo Jaquerio
The 13th of July came, and the final attack began. Raymond's men rolled up their siege tower, with considerable difficulty, and stormed the South wall of Jerusalem. Far away, Godfrey and Tancred hurled themselves upon the North. The defenders fought back with exemplary valour. On all sides the crusaders charged the walls, but nowhere could a gap be opened. Many machines were burned and destroyed, and for every one the crusaders built, the defenders built seven more. Raymond's attack met with fierce oppostion. Things seemed desperate. However, in the words of an eyewitness, "the hour soon approached on which our Lord Jesus Christ designed to suffer on the Cross for us", and the knowledge of this spurred the crusaders on. One knight, by the name of Lethold, in the entourage of Duke Godfrey hurled himself onto the city wall, becoming the first crusader to gaze down upon the Holy City at last. Thrown back, the defenders fled in all directions, and the Christians poured into the city. Word reached Raymond, far away, who turned to his men, "Why do you loiter? Lo, the Franks are even now within the city!". Heartened by the triumph of their brethren, they fought as men possessed, throwing the Muslim lines into anarchy. The Emir commanding the Tower of David surrendered it to Godfrey, handing over the keys to the pilgrims gate. Where once peaceful worshippers had travelled, now a bloodthirsty mob thundered through. Terrible was the carnage, as four years of frustration and suffering allied with zealous faith was unleashed upon Jerusalem. None were safe, soldier or civilian alike, as all were slaughtered without mercy. To this day, the massacre of Jerusalem lives on in the memory of history as one of the greatest crimes in all humanity. Men, women and children were butchered where they stood, heads were severed and blood ran in rivers. The fleeing garrison fled to the Temple Mount, seeking refuge upon the roof. Tancred, seeing the carnage all around, felt a ripple of fear for his immortal soul, and desperately shouted at his men to contain themselves, declaring them prisoners of war under his protection. But the momentum of raw instinct and passion is not easily turned aside. Raymond's men poured through the gate and inflicted brutal death upon them. So terrible to behold it was, people hurled themselves to their deaths from the roof of the Temple to avoid vengeful blades. To the Temple of Solomon the crusaders pursued their foe. One who was there looked on is disbelief:

        " Piles of heads, hands an feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was
          necessary to pick one's way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were
          small matters  compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon. What
          happened there? If I tell the truth, it will exceed your powers of belief. So let it
          suffice to say this much, at least, that in the Temple and porch of Solomon, men
          rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins... "
                     - THE MASSACRE AT THE TEMPLE

The Battle of Ascalon
Image taken from a 13th century French
Illuminated Manuscript
When the smoke cleared on the 16th July, Songs of triumph rose higher than the cries of lamentation. "This is the day the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!", rang through a city drenched in blood. Men of the First Crusade fell to their knees and kissed the ground, their Great Expedition was over at last, and the Holy City was in Christian hands. Four years since the small Council of Clermont, when a Pope had implored all to march to salvation, the end had come. But at a price so terrible that the outrages of it live on in the memories of those who even today shed blood in the Holy Lands. The more honourable among the crusaders looked on in anguish and dismay as the Crusade was for ever stained in blood. So was born another of the Crusader States - the Kingdom of Jerusalem. But who to elect as the new King of Jerusalem? Thoughts turned to Raymond, but he declined.The clergy declared, "you ought not to choose a king in the city where the Lord suffered and was crowned". But council turned upon the noble Godfrey, one of the few men present who was a truly spiritual man at heart, a mighty warrior and pious soul. To him was offered the crown of Jerusalem, yet the horrified Godfrey refused, declaring that it was blasphemous to wear a crown of gold where Christ had worn a crown of thorns. Instead, he was named the Guardian of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest of churches which now lay in Christian hands. To Raymond passed the County of Tripoli some years later, forging the last of the Crusader States. The crusading vow fulfilled, many deigned to return home, but unfinished business was yet needed. For the grand army of the vizier of Egypt bore down upon Jerusalem. But with the crusaders on such a high, and with the wise council of Godfrey, the Fatimids were decisively crushed at Ascalon on the 10th of August 1099, only a days march from the Holy City. The Kingdom of Jerusalem was safe, for now...

When news arrived in Europe, the crusaders were hailed as heroes, and all who made the return journey home were greeted as royalty. All those who had deserted the crusade were scorned as cowards beyond the grace of God. Duke Robert of the Normans returned home to find, to his dismay, that the throne of England had been usurped by his younger brother Henry, now Henry I of England. Defeated in war, the would be King Robert died in imprisonment in Wales in 1134. Raymond ruled the County of Tripoli for six years, envious of the glories of his fellow leaders. Godfrey ruled the Kingdom of Jerusalem well but briefly, dying of illness in 1100, succeeded by his brother Baldwin, crowned King of Jerusalem. Tancred, on account of his piety and competence as a leader, was named Prince of Galilee and regent of Antioch. Hot headed Bohemond ruled Antioch with eccentric adventurism, a law unto himself, until the Emperor Alexius at last brought him to heel, but only through cooperation with the Emirs of the East. Embarking upon adventures back in Europe, many a court did he enthral with his tales of heroism and his dazzling relics, even winning the hand of the daughter of the King of France in marriage. Thirsting for glory, Bohemond launched an audacious war against the Romans, determined to exact revenge upon Alexius, but alas in vain. He died in Italy in 1111, where his body remains to this day. Pope Urban II, the man whose vision the Crusade had been, died on the 29th July 1099, just days before the word reached Rome of the fall of Jerusalem. Many flooded to the Holy Lands, to begin a new life in Christian lands, in a foreboding of the colonisation of the New World six centuries later. In the wake of the Crusade, the Military Orders of the Church were first established, most famously the Knights Templar, yet also the Knights Hospitaller and the Teutonic Knights, both of which are still active today. Only a fraction of those who set out from Clermont lived to see the end of the First Crusade, but its memory lived far beyond mortal lives, for its staggering success against the odds, and the terrible crimes wrought in its wake...

United Kingdom

Eyewitness accounts
The First Crusade: "The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres" and Other Source Materials (Middle Ages)
(A very useful collection of eyewitness accounts of the First Crusade)

United States

Eyewitness accounts
The First Crusade: "The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres" and Other Source Materials (The Middle Ages Series)
(A very useful collection of eyewitness accounts of the First Crusade) 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Midas Touch

What we do in the heat of the moment can very often be the thing which defines a person. Often it is in such moments that decisions are made which can make or break a person. One who is too readily slave to the passions will crumble. One such man was Midas, whose story more than any other issues the dire warning - Be careful what you wish for...

Drunken Silenus
Painting by Peter Paul Rubens
Long ago in most ancient times, the satyrs and nymphs, servants of the wine god Bacchus, came from far and wide in the country to honour their god of the grape. Great was the party, and greater still the revelry. The dances rose, and the wine flowed, and Bacchus was appeased. When the fell rites at last saw an end, the inebriated spirits retreated to the shadows. All but one. For, after the night's indulgences, the aged Silenus, feeble with age and wine, had lost his way. The drunkard collapsed in a field, paralytic from drink, and as the Sun rose, mortal men soon spotted him. For he slept in the pastures of deepest Anatolia, where in such days there was once a powerful kingdom known as Phrygia. Ruling the great city of Pessinus was her King, Midas, son of Gordias, a poor farmer, and the goddess Cybele. The Phrygians, puzzled by their intoxicated guest, bound him in chains, and brought him before their dread sovereign. But Midas was a learned man, schooled in the ways of the Olympians, and saw the rites of the debauched god. Seeing the pedigree of his strange guest, however depraved he might be, Midas welcomed Silenus to his court. The King treated the spirit kindly, declaring a feast in honour of Bacchus. For ten days and nights festivity reigned, in merriment and in joy, and Midas honoured all good bonds between host and guest. The eleventh came, and Midas faithfully lead the catatonic spirit back to the fields, and the welcoming arms of his deity. That day the god of wine, Bacchus himself, stalked Phrygian fields, in search of his kin, father as he was to them. Hearing the exuberance of the extravaganza, the god saw Silenus seated there, pride of place before the Phrygian court, and the god was pleased. Entering the royal pastures in all his divine glory, Bacchus came to the suppliant King, and kindly was his gaze. Bacchus spoke to Midas, and offered him one wish, unbound by limit, that he might reward the kindness of the mortal King. Midas, his might racing at this mighty gift, alas that he delayed not to think! The King, seeing visions of bounty beyond dreams, burst out:

         " 'Give me' says he, nor thought he asked too much,
            That with my body whatsoe'er I touch,
            Chang'd from the nature which it held of old,
            May be as yellow gold... "
                    - THE WISH OF MIDAS

Bacchus, son of Zeus, frowned, disappointment clear upon his Olympian face. Unimpressed, yet true to his word, the god granted Midas his fatal wish, though deep inside did he think a fool no better wish could find. At Bacchus' command, all things would transform at the King's touch. Wood, metal and all other things now became as gold at Midas' touch. His pact honoured, the wine god departed those lands, spirited away to Mount Olympus, knowing the folly that had now been unleashed.

In the moment, however, Midas was ecstatic to the core. Wide was his smile, and high were his leaps of triumph, as he paraded through his realm. Too excited to delay, "down from a lowly branch a twig he drew, the twig strait glitter'd with a golden hue: he takes a stone, the stone was turn'd to gold; a clod he touched, and the crumbling mold acknowledg'd soon the great transforming pow'r...". The King cast his eye far and wide, all consuming greed taking his mind in its vice like grip. Into the meadows he went, and over the sheaves of corn his fingers did he run. His grasp emerged, ears of dazzling gold shining. To the orchards next he dashed, plucking an apple from on high. He stoops to look upon his succulent prize, but lush it is no longer, for now it seems of bright Hesperian gold, as that fruit which accursed Paris scorned of old. Returning to the palace, hewn of magnificent marble columns high. Carelessly, he layed his fatal hands upon the gate, a flash, and with shining gold the fluted pillars blaze. Feeling warm from the day's activity, the King moves to bathe in soothing waters. Into amphorae the servants take the ice cold stream, and over the King do they pour, but in vain, for at his touch the water is as Danae's shower. To see these spectacles of nature strange, fire Midas like never before. His realm would be the greatest in all the world, a realm of gold itself. What could possibly stand before him now, what could possibly be the folly of such a mighty gift? Not far beyond did the King have to look to see the answer plain.

Midas's Daughter
Illustration by Walter Crane
Overjoyed at his omnipotence, the King declared a sumptuous feast, celebrating the eternal wealth of his land, with guests invited from far and wide. Spread with glorious meats, cheeses, fruits and the bounty of the earth was the table, and the hunger stricken King sat down at once. Reaching eagerly for a nearby plate, Midas raises it to his mouth, "whose pow'rful hands the bread no sooner hold, but its whole substance is transform'd to gold". Shocked to his soul, Midas reached desperately for the delicious meat on his other side. But no! That too is now as a nugget of purest gold. Fearful now, his seizes his goblet, now gold, and drinks deeply of the grape. but, "touch'd by his lips, a gilded cordial grew; unfit for drink, and wondrous to behold, it trickles from his jaws fluid gold". Terror cold his body now did flood, as starvation now stalked Midas, and Death close behind, scythe raised to claim the foolish King. But worse was to come, for in that moment a great cry of joy rang in the halls. The daughter of the King, overjoyed to see her father returned from his travels, ran across the hall to embrace him. Before Midas could react, she threw herself into his lethal arms. With a scream of anguish, the King looked on, powerless to help, as the girl's warm flesh was now hard, cold, and gold, a statue now. All present recoiled in fear from the King, fearful of his 'gift'.

Midas pleas to Bacchus
Painting by Nicolas Poussin
To his knees did Midas fall, wracked with grief and guilt raw. "Starving in all his various plenty lies, sick of his wish, he now detests the pow'r, for which he ask'd so earnestly before". The pain of loss, mingled with the agony of famine struck the King now, tortured too by dreadful thirst. Tearing from the now gilded halls of his golden court, Midas fled into the hills, tears shining as the sun. After a long time of wretched grief, he casts his eyes about. It is the very same pasture whence the god had granted this cursed gift. Throwing his arms to Heaven, the King threw himself upon the mercy of Bacchus. " 'Oh father Bacchus, I have sinn'd', he cried, 'and foolishly thy gracious gift apply'd! Thy pity now, repenting, I implore; Oh! may I feel the golden plague no more". Pity it was that moved Bacchus to his salvation, as the wine god saw his suffering. The voice of the god rang in Midas' ears, as the gift was swept aside and cruel metamorphosis stayed its hand. Bidding the weary King to the river near, Bacchus released all things from their golden gaol. Into the stream Midas plunged, and the gift of gold washed away with the rapids. The evil stain was washed away, though ever after were the riverbeds of Asia golden in their hue. From its curing fount all things were restored, and the King's daughter was statue no more, but adoring daughter as before. Too happy to speak, Midas thanked Bacchus in his heart, and a better man Midas ever after was, though never ceasing was his hatred of wealth...

United Kingdom

The Metamorphoses
Metamorphoses: A New Verse Translation (Penguin Classics)
(A Roman epic poem, telling many of the myths of the Classical world)

United States

The Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses (Penguin Classics)
(A Roman epic poem, telling many of the myths of the Classical world)

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Triumph of the Morning Star

Seeing it now as nothing more or less than the greatest trial of their kinship, Eve embraced the distressed Adam, as he took the accursed fruit from her palm (for the previous episode in this story, please click here). As the first man and woman embraced, so was man’s Paradise Lost forever, or so it seemed. Triumph his at last, Satan released his grip on the Serpent, making good his escape from Eden, for well did he know the retribution that would soon be vented upon the once serene Garden.

Adam and Eve hide from the Lord
Engraving by Gustave Doré
As the flesh of the forbidden fruit was pierced by Adam’s teeth, a second time Earth groaned and Nature wailed. Storm clouds gathered over Eden, as the azure Sky turned a putrid black. Rain fell from once cloudless skies, tears wept by Nature at the original sin. The taste of the fruits flesh did intoxicate them both, and both felt ‘divinity within them breeding wings’. Knowledge of good and evil did it bring, but so too the temptation of evil, as the first man and the first woman first set lascivious eyes upon the other, and so corrupted forever the purity of their bond. So was sealed the guilt of original sin. When, not long later, both rose from their slumber, shorn of strength and bare of virtue, they were aware now of their nakedness. Anguish shook their mutual bond, as Adam despaired of their fall. ‘O Eve, in evil hour thou didst give ear to that false worm… How shall I behold the face henceforth of God or angel, erst with joy and rapture so oft beheld?’ In their great shame, the first man and woman took dignity of a fig tree which grew in Eden yonder, taking great boughs of leaves to gird their unclad waists. Emotions fresh now flooded both; anger, hate, mistrust, suspicion, discord, all fallout of Satan’s dark craft. Adam turned on his bride, chastising her for not remaining by his side. ‘Hadst thou been there, or here th’ attempt, thou couldst not have discerned fraud in the Serpent, speaking as he spake’, pleaded Eve, seduced as she had been by Satan’s honeyed words. In that moment did Adam, who chose willingly death together over immortal bliss alone, realise the folly of them both. For both had been warned by the Archangel Raphael that the Enemy lurked within the Garden, an Enemy which found them now. For many dark hours did both sit in terrified silence, dreading the judgement that was surely to come.

As fear polluted the earthly Paradise, word arrived in unearthly Paradise of Man’s transgression, for what can escape the eye of the Almighty, and what deceive the Omniscient? Satan’s ploy had run unhindered by the Most High, for to all things had he granted free will, even his first and greatest Creation, Lucifer, as he was once known. Great consternation there was in Heaven, for the angels loyal still sat distraught, for how could the Fiend have penetrated the Garden? With a crash of glorious thunder the voice of the Lord rang true, ‘Be not dismayed, nor troubled at these tidings from the Earth, which your sincerest care could not prevent’. He had not interfered, but Man had fallen still, and now judgement must be done. To his radiant Son the Lord turned, ‘Man’s friend, his Mediator, his designed both ransom and redeemer’. The Son blazed forth in ethereal glory, resplendent in the magnificence of Heaven, as he decreed that the transgressors would be judged, but one day would come their redemption with his own fall. From his mighty throne did he rise, and flash down to Earth, such purity to a now unclean land.

The voice of the Lord sounded in Eden, and Adam was afraid. In shame deplorable did Adam and Eve seek to conceal themselves from his coming within the trees. ‘Where art thou Adam, wont with joy to meet my coming seen far off?’ spoke the voice of the Lord. Terror flooding his body, the first man found no place to hide. His voice trembling, the first man replied, ‘I heard thee in the Garden, and of thy voice afraid, being naked, hid myself’. ‘My voice thou oft hast heard, and hast not feared, but still rejoiced, how is it now become so dreadful to thee? That thou art naked, who hath told thee? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I gave thee charge thou shouldst not eat?’ Throwing his head high, Adam cried, ‘O Heav’n! In evil strait this day I stand before my judge…’. He confessed it all, his crime and that of Eve, both their calamitous sin. ‘Was she thy God, that her thou didst obey?’ replied the voice of the Lord. To Eve he turned, ‘Say woman, what is this thou hast done?’ Hanging her head, the first woman told her tale, of her temptation by the Serpent, and her crime. When the Lord heard this he turned at once to the Serpent, though it was but an instrument of the Fallen Angel:

           “ Because thou hast done this, thou art accursed
             Above all cattle, each beast of the field;
             Upon thy belly grovelling thou shalt go,
             And dust shalt eat all the days of thy life.
             Between thee and the woman I will pout Enmity, and between thine and her seed;
             Her seed shall bruise thy head, and thou bruise his heel ”
                       - THE JUDGEMENT OF THE SERPENT

So ever after, all serpents crawled along the ground, and were the foe of Man. To Eve now the Lord turned, and his sentence turned:

                            “ Thy sorrow I will greatly multiply,
                               By thy conception; children thou shalt bring
                               In sorrow forth, and to thy husband’s will
                               Thine shall submit, he over thee shall rule ”
                                       - THE JUDGEMENT OF EVE

So ever after, woman was cursed to give birth only through extreme pain, and to be subservient to men. Now to Adam the Lord did turn with curse new:

                         “ Cursed is the ground for thy sake, thou in sorrow
                            Shalt eat thereof all the days of thy life;
                            Thorns also and thistles it shall bring thee forth
                            Unbid, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field,
                            In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,
                            Till thou return unto the ground, for thou
                            Out of the ground was taken; know thy birth,
                            For dust thou art, and shalt to dust return… ”
                                      - THE JUDGEMENT OF ADAM

So ever after, man was cursed to need food to survive, and be able to obtain only through the sweat of his brow, labouring in the fields, cursed in the knowledge that one day he too would lie in the dust. Justice passed, the Son returned to the Most High, though pity great did he feel for the first man and woman, clothing them before he left.

Sin and Death
Engraving by Gustave Doré
Far below the earthly sphere sat Sin and Death before the Gates of Hell. Change in the air did they sense, a weakening of their bonds. The Gates flew open wide ‘belching outrageous flame far into Chaos, since the Fiend passed through’. Sin, mother to Death, turned to her son, and declared ‘Methinks I feel new strength within me rise, wings growing and dominion giv’n me large’. Sensing the triumph of the Morning Star, they rejoiced, hailing the Dark Prince as their Saviour new. Bound in the infernal keep no longer, Earth now was their kingdom, and man their servants. A strange attraction overcame them both, attraction to this new realm. Turning his cold nose to the stars, Death caught scent of life afar, passion firing anew. Ecstasy was theirs, and in their joy they raised a deplorable bridge, forever binding the world of men with the world of Hell, spanning the chasm of Chaos once crossed by the Fallen Angel.

A blinding light, a shout of triumph, both heralds of Satan’s return, coming now resplendent as a burning angel of Heaven. Jubilation was his, and greater still, when he saw the mighty bridge now yonder, craft of his children. Hell, his daughter proud, exclaimed with joy her foreknowledge of his triumphs, for Hell could bind them no longer. The Great Liberator they hailed now. Their great defeat had been avenged. Satan smiled upon his kin, proclaiming Eden theirs forever to rule, bidding them go forth and grant their Dominion to the race of Men. Bidding them make all haste, the Morning Star sped on down into the depths, unguarded as they were, for all the Infernal host had gained word of their leader’s victory.

To Pandaemonium the fiery city did he soar, summoning High Council amongst his brethren, one third of the angelic host of Heaven of old, blackened by the soot of Hell. Blazing with regal glory, all that was left of his once Heavenly brilliance, he marched forth, and deafening was his acclaim. ‘I call ye and declare ye now, returned successful beyond hope, to lead ye forth, triumphant out of this infernal Pit, abominable, accursed, the house of woe, and dungeon of our Tyrant’. Proud of his craft, Satan told his story:

                             “ The new created world, which fame in Heav’n
                                Long had foretold, a fabric wonderful
                               Of absolute perfection, therein man
                               Placed in a Paradise, by our exile
                               Made happy: him by fraud I have seduced
                               From his Creator, and the more to increase
                               Your wonder, with an apple; he thereat
                               Offended, worth your laughter, hath giv’n up
                               Both his beloved man and all his world,
                               To Sin and Death a prey, and so to us… ”
                                      - THE TRIUMPH OF SATAN

The Fallen Angels Metamorphise
Engraving by Gustave Doré
A while the Fallen One stood, expecting a rousing shout and highest applause. But Satan heard not cries of glee, but ‘a dismal, universal hiss’, as though of scorn. Not long did he have to wonder at this noise, for he presently felt a shocking sensation. His flesh suddenly drawn tight to his form, his arms clung to his ribs and his legs intertwined each other, he powerless to resist the force which contorted him savagely now. His metamorphoses complete, the Fallen Angel fell to the ground, now a monstrous serpent. Punished now in the shape by which he sinned, Satan would have spoke, perhaps cried out anguish and rage, but his forked tongue flickered and only a hiss emerged, one among the many, for all the fallen angels were now as snakes. ‘Dreadful was the din’, as hideous contortions broke out hither and thither, the shape of all manner of nightmarish creatures did they take. In their midst, the bane of Man was nigh on rent asunder as his form was twisted into a monstrous dragon, mightier than any wyrm that trod the Earth, but undampened was his resolve, nor his power over the others. The rebel angels looked amongst each other, expecting to see their dread leader bedecked in glory, fresh from triumph, but saw in horror and sorrow only vile serpents all around. Spear and shield fell to the ground, useless now for bodies with no hands.

Then in their midst sprung up a grove, not unlike the Forbidden Tree of Eden, instrument of Man’s demise. Suddenly the power of the Lord waxed strong again, and his retribution terrible. Each one among them felt a ‘scalding thirst and hunger fierce’, as fruit burst forth from the seductive boughs of the Tree. Desperate from their pangs, they fell upon it, each and all, and sunk their razor teeth into the fruit. But here fell God’s curse anew, as the fruit turned to bitter ashes in their mouths. Each among them spat in frustrated agony. Thus was the fallen host ‘plagued and worn with famine, long and ceaseless hiss’, until the time came they assumed their former shapes. Once a year, on the anniversary of the temptation of the first man and woman, the spirits of the Pit undergo this transformation, ‘to dash their pride, and joy for man seduced’…

United Kingdom

Paradise Lost:
Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics)
(A sweeping epic poem telling the story of mankind's fall and Satan's rebellion against God)

United States

Paradise Lost:
Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics)
(A sweeping epic poem telling the story of mankind's fall and Satan's rebellion against God)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Madness of Cambyses

Never forgetting the valuable lesson he had learned that day he had befriended the fallen Croesus (for the the story click please here), the Persian King of Kings ruled wisely and fairly for all. The Persian Empire ever after became a deeply admired nation, where the vast array of cultures within its endless borders coexisted peacefully as equals. The Empire flourished, Iran became a model of religious freedom and cultural tolerance, and the first laws of human rights were written, and it was one of the earliest nations to deplore slavery. Many nations willingly flocked to the Great King’s court, and many willingly handed over their sovereignty to him. At his death, Cyrus the Great had achieved astonishing things.

King Cambyses
Artist unknown
Cyrus had, in twenty years, transformed an obscure Eurasian tribe into a world superpower. The realm inherited by his son Cambyses was breathtaking in its size. Many great kingdoms and empires had risen and fallen in the Middle East. The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Medians, the Lydians, the Akkadians, Sumerians and Elamites had all been great powers in their day. The domains of the Persian King included all of them, and were larger than all of them put together. It was so vast that it had not one but four capital cities; Pasargadae, Susa, Babylon and Ecbatana. Still, the Persian Empire was far from its greatest extent. To take up the crown and sceptre left by Cyrus was a formidable challenge indeed. Cambyses, though a little short tempered, seemed worthy of such a challenge. Some years earlier, Cyrus asked the Pharaoh of Egypt, Amasis, for the services of the most skilled oculist in Egypt. Amasis agreed, and sent the man to Persia. But the doctor, furious with the Pharaoh for tearing him away from his family and country, decided to sow the seeds of Egypt’s ruin. Scheming, the doctor approached young Cambyses, and persuaded him to ask Amasis for the hand of his daughter in marriage. The plan was an ingenious one. If Amasis agreed, he would be wracked with personal distress, for alarming were the rumours that reached his ears of the sadistic tendencies of Cambyses. If he refused, it would be tantamount to a declaration of war, and terrifying was the power of Persia. A sleepless night the Pharaoh endured, for the decision all Kings dread was now his. A choice between his Kingdom, and his conscience.

The next morning, he formed a plan. It seemed to him ingenious, for it would benefit both. Many years earlier, he had overthrown his predecessor, Pharaoh Apries, in a rebellion. The last surviving member of his household was his daughter, and Amasis decided to grant her the identity of his daughter, and dress her as a princess of Egypt, and duly she was sent to the Persian court. Cambyses was overjoyed with his splendid bride, and all seemed well. Amasis died of old age, confident that he had honoured his daughter and preserved Egypt. There came a time, however, when Cambyses addressed her by the name of Amasis her father. The girl, unable to tolerate the shame any longer, confessed to the Great King the deception Amasis had woven upon him, and her true identity. It was this simple revelation which brought down the wrath of Cambyses upon Egypt.

All of Persia prepared for war. The legions of Asia marched forth, and the world trembled. All Egypt, and the newly crowned Pharaoh Psammenitus, lamented, for a fresh blow struck. Long had the Pharoahs of Egypt and the Greek cities been friends. But now, lured by riches and power, the Greeks betrayed Egypt, and went over to Cambyses. One such traitor told the Great King all he knew from his years of service, and showed him the path by which a strike would be sure to succeed. A valiant stand did Egypt undertake, but the glory days of old were long gone. A new power was rising. The Egyptians were beaten, and fled in disarray, barricading themselves in their capital, Memphis. Cambyses, holding the peoples and culture of Egypt in contempt, sent a herald to Memphis to demand the surrender of Egypt. In one last act of defiance, the Egyptians slew the ambassador and his entourage, accepting their fate. After a gruelling siege, Memphis fell, and with it, after two and a half thousand years of greatness, Ancient Egypt came to an end. The last great nation in the region had now fallen to Persia. There was no other power left which could oppose her. Cambyses, stunning himself at the height his nation had reached, was fired with patriotic fervour, and things more sinister. What could he lose now? The Great King decided to humiliate Psammenitus, and test his resolve.

The Persian Empire under Cambyses
Map created by the author
So great was the fear of the increasingly unstable Cambyses, Libya and Cyrenaica surrendered to the Great King without a fight. Not ten days passed before the new Pharaoh, Cambyses, forced Psammenitus and all the nobles of Egypt to bear witness to a cruel spectacle. First, he had Psammenitus’ daughter, and those of the other nobles, dress as slaves and sent them to fetch water out under the burning African Sun. The girls wept bitterly in their humiliation, but greater still did their fathers. Only Psammenitus himself stayed his tears, mingled with frustration and fury as they were, for well did he know the Great King’s ploy. The former Pharaoh merely lowered his head in silence, eyeing the floor. Cruel Cambyses, seeing this, ordered the guards to force his head high. Next came Psammenitus’ only son, mouth bridled and neck tied in rope. In his wake followed two thousand others of the sons of Egypt’s nobility, for the Royal Judges of the Great King had decreed that for each emissary that had been slain by the defenders of Memphis, ten Egyptians would die. Though the other noblemen clasped their heads in their hands, spirits broken, Psammenitus battled for control of his emotion. Once a king, always a king. Never can a king allow his emotion to rule his head. But then, in the wake of the boys, there came an old man, bent with age no less than by the weight of his shackles. Psammenitus saw the man, and recognised him at once, for he had once been his good friend, and many a time had the two dined together, in the days before the coming of Persia. Now the man, stripped of his earthly possessions, wandered the streets as a hapless beggar, trying to get what he could from Persian soldiers. Now at last Psammenitus was moved to tears. The Great King, amazed at this newfound emotion, asked him why he now shed tears for a beggar when he did for his own kin. “Son of Cyrus,” he replied, “my own suffering was too great for tears, but I could not but weep for the trouble of a friend, who has fallen from great wealth and good fortune and has been reduced to beggary on the threshold of old age”. The bold man’s response struck deep in the hearts of all present, Egyptian and Persian alike. Even the Great King himself knew pity for but a moment, and gave orders that the son of Psammenitus be spared his fate.

But ever since Cambyses had set foot in Egyptian lands, a curse had swollen within him, for some force, natural, or supernatural, had begun to unhinge his mind. The Great King, remembering why he had struck against Egypt, advanced on Sais, to the royal tomb of Amasis. There he defiled the sacred dignity of the fallen Pharaoh’s corpse, ordering it lashed and scourged and subjecting it to hideous treatment. Then at last, when he had fulfilled his rage, he ordered it burned. Cremation was a thing deplorable to the people of Ancient Egypt, but so too for the people of Ancient Persia. So did Cambyses defile the customs of his own people, and another. Deeper drove the splinter in his mind. His affliction grew day by day. Soon thirst for glory, sated by his conquest of Egypt, grew strong again. To the South lay the land of the long lived Ethiopians, and great was the lure of their lands, and the end of the known world, to Cambyses. To the King of their people Cambyses sent heralds bearing gifts, offering his ‘friendship’ to Ethiopia. Making the arduous journey through the desert dunes, the ambassadors came. Bowing before the Ethiopian King, they presented their gifts, and request. But the King, a shrewd man, knew they were spies, sent in truth to scout out his lands. The King issued a dire warning to the Great King:

        “ Had he any respect for what is right, he would not have coveted any other
          kingdom than his own, nor made slaves of a people who have done him no
          wrong. So take him this bow, and tell him that the King of Ethiopia has
          some advice to give him: when the Persians can draw a bow of this size thus easily,
          then let him raise an army of greater strength and invade the country of the
          long lived Ethiopians. Till then, let him thank the gods for turning the thoughts
          of the children of Ethiopia to foreign conquest...”

Whereupon the King unstrung the mighty bow and presented it to the ambassadors. With great haste the emissaries returned to Cambyses, and the Ethiopian King’s defiance. Terrible was the rage of the Great King, and closer to the edge of the abyss edged his sanity. Without delay, a declaration of war followed, and with it, one upon Carthage and the people of Siwah for good measure. In his madness, not a thought to the fact that he would be leading his men to the ends of the Earth, he lead fifty thousand men into the desert. Fifty thousand more detached from the host and bore down on Siwah. The force against Carthage, however, stalled. For the Phoenicians, who formed the entire naval force of the Persian Empire, refused to make war upon their own colony, and would not pollute the sacred bond by making war on their own children. So by a hair’s breadth was the great nation of Carthage spared Persian wrath.

The Creeping Death of the Desert
Artist unknown
Not a fifth of the distance to the faraway lands of the Ethiopians had the Great King covered, when the last of the provisions ran dry. The Sun bore down upon their necks. Sweat dripped from their brow. Parched grew their throats.  The Sahara welcomes all, but does not readily bid goodbye. Deeper grew the sand. Each step taken, was a towering effort, as the ground fell away beneath their feet. Hours would it take to reach the crest of the next dune, only then to see the Sahara go ever on, as far as the eye could see. If you have ever been deep into a desert, well will you know the deceptive influences that play havoc upon your judgement. At last, a lake ahead? Forever can you chase it, and never will you reach it. Such is the danger of mirages. This was the danger now which sapped the very life force from the men of Persia. The day came when the first horse collapsed into the sand, spent of its final ounce of energy. Men would kill for but a single droplet of water, others reduced to drinking the blood of their horses. As long as they were able, men ate whatever grass they could find. But then they reached the open desert, and terrible deeds this caused. Days passed, and man and beast alike fell lifeless into the sand. Men drew lots between them. One in ten was chosen, and cannibalism ran rampant throughout the army. There came a time when Cambyses saw his men slaying each other, desperate to stay alive, and at last, even the Great King saw it was useless to keep on. The few stragglers that returned to Thebes were a shadow of the vanguard which had left it. News came of the army which had marched on Siwah. West into the Sahara had they gone, seeking destruction upon the Oracle at Siwah (the very same which would proclaim Alexander the Great as the son of Zeus some two hundred years later). Reports had arrived that they had left the Oasis and marched to the West, but never again were they heard from again. For a sandstorm of terrible ferocity had struck the beleaguered men one day, and the whole army was swallowed by the desert.

The Apis Bull
Image taken from a 21st Dynasty Coffin, Egypt
The terrible heat of the desert, and the horrifying visions it had caused, had now at last shattered the Great King’s sanity, and his madness was absolute. There came not longer after his return to Memphis the time for the festival of Ptah, the creator god and patron deity of Memphis. The people donned their finest clothing, and prepared to receive the Apis bull, a noble beast sacred to Ptah, revered as a god in its own right. The people rejoiced, as the elegant animal was paraded through the street, and they gave thanks to Ptah. When Cambyses saw these things, he asked the priests what the fuss was about. “A god has appeared amongst us!” they joyfully replied. Cruel Cambyses declared them liars and had them dragged away and executed. Given over to insanity, he walked up to Apis, his dagger drawn. With a shout of laughter and a flash of steel, he drove the blade into the beast. Missing its side, he struck its thigh. The Bull roared with pain, before crashing to the ground, blood pouring from its wounded flank. Cambyses, turning to the crowd, laughing maniacally, declared:

              “ Do you call that a god, you poor creatures? Are your gods flesh and blood?
                Do they feel the cut of steel? No doubt a god like that is good enough for the
                Egyptians; but you won’t get away with trying to make a fool of me!”
                          - THE INSANE CAMBYSES TAUNTS THE GODS

The Great King abolished the festival, and any caught honouring the fallen bull was put to death, and the priests were whipped so savagely that their blood drenched the streets. The distraught Egyptians, enraged yet stricken with grief, obeyed by day but resisted by night. When darkness fell, Some brave priests broke free of their captors and gave the Bull a tender funeral, though well they knew they faced Death should they be caught. Cambyses’ insanity grew stronger yet, and hand in hand marched that most fatal scourge of rulers – paranoia. When it transpired that his brother, Smerdis , had been able to string the bow of the Ethiopian King, Cambyses had banished him back to Susa. Then, one night, the Great King had a dream, in which he saw before him a vision of Smerdis seated upon the royal throne, sceptre in hand, and his head touching the sky. His suspicions as to what this could mean tortured him, and ordered his murder in secret. Not only had he committed the atrocity if the slaying of a son of Cyrus, but he had killed his own brother. Next he turned to his sister. Taking  an unnatural attraction to her, the Great King, his mind by now truly lost, resolved to marry her. Summoning his royal judges, he demanded to know if there was any reason why he could not do so. The judges, torn between revulsion, and fear of the unstable King, replied that whilst they could find no written law that allowed brother and sister to wed, there was undoubtedly a law which permitted the King of Persia to do as he pleased. Thus Cambyses violated another law of nature. When brother and sister sat down to eat at the table one day, the woman picked up a lettuce, and began pulling off its leaves. Turning to her new husband, she asked whether he thought it looked better with or without its leaves. The Great King replied that he preferred it before it was stripped. The sister, who knew well the fate of her other brother, replied that Cambyses had treated the House of Cyrus just as she had treated the lettuce. In a maddened rage, the broken King added to his crimes the murder of his sister too.

The Sahara Swallows the Persian Army
Engraving by Alfredo Y Angelo Castiglioni
All Egypt was turned on its head. On Cambyses’ orders, temples were thrown open, and ancient tombs broken asunder, as the crazed machinations of the Great King slowly tore asunder all taboos and customs. Many times could the Great King be found jeering at the statues of gods in the temples, an act no other mortal would dare to do. His moods would swing from uncommon kindness to savage malice. One moment he would order a man executed, then hours later ask to see him, oblivious to his former act. Soon, as the ethical codes of both Egypt and Persia lay in ruins, plots began to form against the insane King. Far away in Persia, the two of the Magi staged a rebellion. One of them also held the name of Smerdis, and even bore a strong resemblance to the Great King’s slain brother. Seizing this chance, he adopted the identity of the fallen brother, knowing well that the name of the House of Cyrus would strike a chord with all. Since the murder of Smerdis was conducted in secret, no one would question his identity.

When news reached Cambyses, the follies of his designs was at last laid bare before him. At last, the truth of his dream was clear. He had polluted his soul with the murder of his brother, all to no avail, and in that moment, the Great King felt a hideous remorse. The pain was so terrible that he lamented his miserable state, and felt his brother and sister’s death with remarkable empathy. Those present, appalled at the Great King’s transgressions against god and nature, could not fail to be moved at the sad sight. For Cambyses, only half aware of what he was doing and where he was, cried as though an infant. Oblivious to the full extent of his crimes, even for the few he was aware of he wept bitter and furious tears, fury for the tortures his mind had been subjected to ever since his arrival in Egypt. Battling for control of his own mind, the Great King leaped onto his horse, his human side desperate to put right all the wrongs. But in that moment, with a scream from Cambyses, came the ominous retribution. For the leather scabbard at the Great King’s side split, and his sword point plunged into his thigh – in the very spot where his dagger had struck the Apis Bull. The Egyptian gods, it seemed, had struck back with the ultimate vengeance. The wound grew gangrenous, and the Great King knew his time drew near. For though the wound would spell his doom, he felt the terrible burden upon his mind lift. Control returned to Cambyses, and there, at the end, it seemed the true son of Cyrus had returned. As the darkness began to fall on his eyes, he turned to his entourage, both Persian and Egyptian alike. “I murdered my brother for nothing, and have lost my kingdom just the same… For now I realise that it is not in human power to avert what is destined to be.” Tears fell down his cheek, and down those of Persian and Egyptian alike, as they saw the dignity of a true Persian King, and saw that the man had endured a terrible fate – ever to be polluted by the savagery of crimes he knew not that he had done. “I pray that the earth may be fruitful for you, your wives bear you children, your flocks multiply and freedom be yours forever…” were among the last words heard to leave Cambyses’ lips. So at last, the tragic son of Cyrus found peace…

Cambyses, son of Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, passed away in 522 BC, after a reign of seven years. He left behind him a kingdom larger than the one he had inherited, but at a terrible personal cost. What caused his madness is to this day unknown. Perhaps schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or porphyria. Perhaps the heat of the desert, and the trauma of it, permanently shattered his mind. Maybe it really was the punishment for Cambyses, the vengeance of the gods of the conquered Egypt. Whatever the cause, one thing was certain. The fate of superpowers had changed forever. One destroyed, one stronger than ever, and one soul a casualty of the ordeal - an unwilling tyrant who lived long enough to know remorse and redemption...

United Kingdom

The Histories of Herodotus:
The Histories (Oxford World's Classics)
(The grand story of the rivalry between the East and the West, with a pretty eclectic mix of the most fabulous stories from a plethora of cultures - to read it is a rite of passage!)

United States

The Histories of Herodotus:
The Histories, Revised (Penguin Classics)
(The grand story of the rivalry between the East and the West, with a pretty eclectic mix of the most fabulous stories from a plethora of cultures - to read it is a rite of passage!)