Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Herodotus’ “Histories” of the Persian Wars (very liberally ‘translaparaphrased’): Book I sections 44 -45

44 (wherein the tragedy of Adrastus's life comes to its fruition, and Croeusus recalls his dream, and its source)

Hastening to Sardis, a messenger told Croesus of the party’s encounter with the Boar, and the death of his son. Croesus’s horror at the event was only increased by the fact that the death blow was dealt by the very man he had ritually cleansed of blood guilt. In the deepest throes of grief he prayed to Zeus, calling upon him by the title of Purifier, and asked him to pay witness to the pain he had suffered at the hands of his guest. He then invoked Zeus under the name Protector of Home, because Croesus had unwittingly given shelter and protection to his son’s killer. Furthermore, he addressed Zeus as God of the guest-friend, because Adrastus, his guest had turned out to be a bitter enemy, in effect.


Not too long after this, the Lydian party arrived with the corpse. The killer accompanied the party. He stood before the body, stretched his hands out in submission, and begged the king to cut his throat immediately, and upon the corpse of the son.

‘Until now my misfortune was great. But, now that I have ruined the life of the man who cleansed me of guilt, I no longer can bear to live.’

Even in inconsolable grief, Croesus was moved to compassion by these words.

‘My friend, I can expect no more of you than your own condemnation. Justice cannot expect more than this either. This tragic turn of events was not your fault. You had no intention of striking my son, and killing him, even though you surely did. Most assuredly, a god is to blame, a god that warned me, years ago of such calamity.’

With dignity, and all ceremony befitting, Croesus buried his son. As soon as things had settled down after the burial, Adrastus, son of Gordias, grandson of Midas, the unfortunate that had killed his own brother and destroyed his host, a host that had offered purification, convinced that he was the most unfortunate man of all, stabbed himself and fell dead upon the tomb of Atys.