Herodotus' Histories, book 4
summary and comments by Jona Lendering

Tenth logos: country and customs of the Scythians (4.1-82)

After his successes in quelling the revolt of pseudo-Smerdis, the rebellion of Babylon, and conquering Samos, king Darius decides to attack the Scythian tribes that live in what is now called Ukraine. The opening logos of Book Four tells about their way of life. Herodotus first gives a description of the country, which he knows as a green pasture, bordered in the north by large stretches of snow. There are several Greek cities on the shores of the Black Sea, where people have a more or less decent life style. Traveling north, you will leave civilization: first there are the farmer tribes of the Callipides and the Alizones, then you will reach the Neuri and finally the Man-eaters. More to the east live the Thyssagetes and the Iyrcans, both hunters; in the far east, you will encounter the Argippeans -who are all bold- and the Issedones. This description of the Scythian nations is not complete without Herodotus making a digression on the relative size of the three continents Asia, Europe and Africa; this digression is interrupted by a small digression about a Phoenician expedition that managed to round Cape of Good Hope (click here). Returning to the topography of Scythia, Herodotus tells a lot about the main rivers of Scythia, then changes subject and informs us about Scythian customs - religion, sacrifices, royal burials, the use of marihuana, etcetera.

Eleventh logos: Darius' campaign against the Scythians (4.83-144)

The next logos tells about Darius' campaign. After crossing the Bosporus, he subjects a tribe called Getes, on whose belief to be immortal Herodotus devotes a short digression. Darius reaches the Danube, where the allied Ionian Greeks have already built a bridge. When the Persian army has crossed into modern Rumania, the king orders the bridge to be destroyed. A Ionian Greek in his army, Coes of Mytilene, objects to this and suggests not to cut off a possible line of retreat. The great king agrees and orders the Ionian Greeks to remain where they are for at least sixty days. After a short digression on the Scythian tribes that Darius is about to engage, Herodotus tells about a Persian envoy who demands that the Scythians surrender. They refuse and form three armies. Two of these lure the Persians deeper and deeper into Scythia, until they reach the river Oaros (the Wolga). When Darius is finally able to join battle, he realizes that he can never win and follows Gobryes' advice to return to the Danube. Meanwhile, the sixty days have passed and the Ionians deliberate what to do; the proposal of Histiaeus of Miletus to keep the bridge intact is finally accepted. Darius is able to return safely. He leaves Megabazus behind as satrap of his European possessions.

Twelfth logos: the Greeks in Cyrene become subjects of the Persian Empire (4.145-205)

This book ends with a logos about a Persian campaign against the Greek towns in the Cyrenaica. First, Herodotus tells us about the way the Greeks colonized this part of Africa and how they have lived since the adventures of these first settlers. He interrupts his story to digress on the desert tribes in the Sahara, and then returns to his original story. He explains how the Greek settlers are divided and how one of the quarreling factions invites the Persians to take hold of the towns in Cyrenaica. The new masters take many captives, who are deported to far-away Bactria.
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