I have to give credit where it is due: the whole reason I have discovered that I actually like history is due to Dan Carlin. As any of my few readers might know, I am a huge podcast fan and have been listening to Dan’s two podcasts for years (I owe a hat tip to another Dan, one I used to work with, for the pointer to DC). Although HH only comes out a few times a year, it immediately jumps to the top of my must listen list. I actually look for long drives and tasks when one gets posted so I can find time to listen.
In his most recent HH episode Dan recounts part of the same story that Tom Holland writes about in one of the books I read earlier this year, Persian Fire, specifically on King Cyrus, the arguable founder of the Persian Empire. It’s actually a nice companion piece to a podcast that Prof CJ did on King Sargon of Akkad, the first empire builder.
Near the end, Dan reads a quote from Herdotus, that I just love. According to the first historian, a herald was sent to King Cyrus from Queen Tomyris of the Massagetai on the eve before a battle between the two of them. The herald delivered this message to Cyrus from the Queen:
King of the Medes, cease to press this enterprise, for you cannot know if what you are doing will be of real advantage to you. Be content to rule in peace your own kingdom, and bear to see us reign over the countries that are ours to govern. As, however, I know you will not choose to hearken to this counsel, since there is nothing you less desirest than peace and quietness, come now, if you are so mightily desirous of meeting the Massagetai in arms, leave your useless toil of bridge-making; let us retire three days’ march from the river bank, and do you come across with your soldiers; or, if you like better to give us battle on your side the stream, retire yourself an equal distance.
It’s certainly longer than Molon Labe (which was directed Cyrus’ great grandson in the Hot Gates), but what it lacks in compactness, it makes up for is subtle gut punches. I think I would have like to have met that queen.