There is a town in Crete called Oaxus, of which one Etearchus became
ruler. He was a widower with a daughter whose name was Phronime, and he married
a second wife. When the second wife came into his house, she thought fit to be
the proverbial stepmother to Phronime, ill-treating her and devising all sorts
of evil against her; at last she accused the girl of lewdness, and persuaded her
husband that the charge was true. So Etearchus was persuaded by his wife and contrived
a great sin against his daughter. There was at Oaxus a Theraean trader, one Themison;
Etearchus made this man his guest and friend, and got him to swear that he would
do him whatever service he desired; then he gave the man his own daughter, telling
him to take her away and throw her into the sea. But Themison was very angry at
being thus tricked on his oath and renounced his friendship with Etearchus; presently,
he took the girl and sailed away, and so as to fulfill the oath that he had sworn
to Etearchus, when he was on the high seas he bound her with ropes and let her
down into the sea and drew her up again, and presently arrived at Thera.
There Polymnestus, a notable Theraean, took Phronime and made her
his concubine. In time, a son of weak and stammering speech was born to him, to
whom he gave the name Battus, as the Theraeans and Cyrenaeans say; but in my opinion
the boy was given some other name, and changed it to Battus on his coming to Libya,
taking this new name because of the oracle given to him at Delphi and the honorable
office which he received. For the Libyan word for king is "Battus",
and this (I believe) is why the Pythian priestess called him so in her prophecy,
using a Libyan name because she knew that he was to be king in Libya.
For when he grew to adulthood, he went to Delphi to inquire about
his voice; and the priestess in answer gave him this: "Battus, you have come
for a voice; but Lord Phoebus Apollo Sends you to found a city in Libya, nurse
of sheep", just as if she addressed him using the Greek word for "king",
"Basileus, you have come for a voice", et cetera. But he answered: "Lord,
I came to you to ask about my speech; but you talk of other matters, things impossible
to do; you tell me to plant a colony in Libya; where shall I get the power or
strength of hand for it?" Battus spoke thus, but as the god would not give
him another oracle and kept answering as before, he departed while the priestess
was still speaking, and went away to Thera.
But afterward things turned out badly for Battus and the rest of the
Theraeans; and when, ignorant of the cause of their misfortunes, they sent to
Delphi to ask about their present ills, the priestess declared that they would
fare better if they helped Battus plant a colony at Cyrene in Libya. Then the
Theraeans sent Battus with two fifty-oared ships; these sailed to Libya, but,
not knowing what else to do, presently returned to Thera. There, the Theraeans
shot at them as they came to land and would not let the ship put in, telling them
to sail back; which they did under constraint of necessity, and planted a colony
on an island off the Libyan coast called (as I have said already) Platea. This
island is said to be as big as the city of Cyrene is now.
Here they lived for two years; but as everything went wrong, the rest
sailed to Delphi leaving one behind, and on their arrival questioned the oracle,
and said that they were living in Libya, but that they were no better off for
that. Then the priestess gave them this reply: "If you know Libya nurse of
sheep better than I,
Though I have been there and you have not, then I am very much astonished at your
knowledge". Hearing this, Battus and his men sailed back again; for the god
would not let them do anything short of colonizing Libya itself; and having come
to the island and taken aboard the one whom they had left there, they made a settlement
at a place in Libya itself, opposite the island which was called Aziris. This
is a place enclosed on both sides by the fairest of groves, with a river flowing
along one side of it.
Here they dwelt for six years; but in the seventh, the Libyans got
them to leave the place, saying that they would lead them to a better; and they
brought the Greeks from Aziris and led them west, so calculating the hours of
daylight that they led the Greeks past the fairest place in their country, called
Irasa, at night, lest the Greeks see it in their journey. Then they brought the
Greeks to what is called the Fountain of Apollo, and said to them: "Here,
Greeks, it is suitable for you to live; for here the sky is torn".
Now in the time of Battus the founder of the colony, who ruled for
forty years, and of his son Arcesilaus who ruled for sixteen, the inhabitants
of Cyrene were no more in number than when they had first gone out to the colony.
But in the time of the third ruler, Battus, who was called the Fortunate, the
Pythian priestess warned all Greeks by an oracle to cross the sea and live in
Libya with the Cyrenaeans; for the Cyrenaeans invited them, promising a distribution
of land; and this was the oracle: "Whoever goes to beloved Libya after
the fields are divided, I say shall be sorry afterward".
So a great multitude gathered at Cyrene, and cut out great tracts
of land from the territory of the neighboring Libyans. Robbed of their lands and
treated violently by the Cyrenaeans, these then sent to Egypt together with their
king, whose name was Adicran, and put their affairs in the hands of Apries, the
king of that country. Apries mustered a great force of Egyptians and sent it against
Cyrene; the Cyrenaeans marched out to Irasa and the Thestes spring, and there
fought with the Egyptians and beat them; for the Egyptians had as yet had no experience
of Greeks, and despised their enemy; as a result of which, they were so utterly
destroyed that few of them returned to Egypt. Because of this misfortune, and
because they blamed him for it, the Egyptians revolted from Apries.
This Battus had a son Arcesilaus; on his first coming to reign, he
quarrelled with his brothers, until they left him and went away to another place
in Libya, where they founded a city for themselves, which was then and is now
called Barce; and while they were founding it, they persuaded the Libyans to revolt
from the Cyrenaeans. Then Arcesilaus led an army into the country of the Libyans
who had received his brothers and had also revolted; and they fled in fear of
him to the eastern Libyans. Arcesilaus pursued them until he came in his pursuit
to Leucon in Libya, where the Libyans resolved to attack him; they engaged, and
so wholly overcame the Cyrenaeans that seven thousand Cyrenaean soldiers were
killed there. After this disaster, Arcesilaus, being worn down and having taken
a drug, was strangled by his brother Learchus; Learchus was deftly killed by Arcesilaus'
Arcesilaus' kingship passed to his son Battus, who was lame and infirm
in his feet. The Cyrenaeans, in view of the affliction that had overtaken them,
sent to Delphi to ask what political arrangement would enable them to live best;
the priestess told them bring a mediator from Mantinea in Arcadia. When the Cyrenaeans
sent their request, the Mantineans gave them their most valued citizen, whose
name was Demonax. When this man came to Cyrene and learned everything, he divided
the people into three tribes; of which the Theraeans and dispossessed Libyans
were one, the Peloponnesians and Cretans the second, and all the islanders the
third; furthermore, he set apart certain domains and priesthoods for their king
Battus, but all the rest, which had belonged to the kings, were now to be held
by the people in common.
During the life of this Battus, these ordinances held good, but in
the time of his son Arcesilaus much contention arose about the king's rights.
Arcesilaus, son of the lame Battus and Pheretime, would not abide by the ordinances
of Demonax, but demanded back the prerogatives of his forefathers, and made himself
head of a faction; but he was defeated and banished to Samos, and his mother fled
to Salamis in Cyprus.
This extract is from: Herodotus. The Histories (ed. A. D. Godley, 1920), Cambridge. Harvard University Press. Cited Nov 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.