|Persian Manners ||Articles and Essays
|The Persians, though greatly stigmatised by ancient Greek historians, must be allowed to have had some redeeming qualities. They were brave, obedient, and, —I will add— generous, and, if not exactly sober, at least people who knew to prize soberness.
The Persian kings made it a point to show extreme gratitude for the services rendered them. In Thucydides we see Artaxerxes assuring Pausanias in superlative language that the advances he made would be regarded in the light of benefactions conferred upon his house; and Herodotus, after mentioning many royal recompenses awarded to servants of the state in Persia, relates how Theomestor and Philaeus, two of the Ionian captains who fought bravely at Salamis, were rewarded the first by the sovereignty of Samos, and the second because of his name having «been enrolled in the number of those who had well merited of the King, he had for recompense a large expanse of territory. Those who render to the king services are called in Persian Orosangae».1
It is a Record of these Orosangae that M. Bétant,2 the able translator of Thucydides, recognizes in «the book of record of the chronicles» which reveals, in the Book of Esther,3 to Ahasuerus «that Mordeccai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus.
»And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordeccai for this?
»So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour? ...
»And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honour, Let the royal apparel be brought out which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head,
»And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the streets of the city and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.
»Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordeccai the Jew, that sitteth at the king’s gate, let nothing fail of all thou hast spoken».
These honours paid to Mordeccai are quite in keeping with the magnificent recompense made to Themistocles4 for mere doubtful promises and expectations and with king Darius’ offer of Samos to Syloson for the gift of a coat bestowed upon him in his days of poverty.5
Being much given to wine, the Persians had a great esteem for those who could drink much liquor without getting intoxicated. According to the Count de Ségur6 an inscription on the tomb of Darius I bore that among other talents he had that of drinking much wine without becoming tipsy; and Cyrus the Younger in the letter addressed to the Lacedemonians in which he is anxious to advance a better claim to the crown than his brother, enumerates among his numerous qualities that of being able to drink a greater quantity of wine than Artaxerxes, and of supporting better.
Cyrus the Elder boasted,7 at the court of his grandfather Astyages, that his father never drank more wine than was needful to allay his thirst; and Herodotus tells us that they never adopt a resolution decided upon when drinking unless it be first approved in their hours of soberness.
1. Herodotus, Bk VIII, Chap. LXXXVI.
2. See Bétant’s Translation of Thucydides, Notes.
3. Chapter VI.
4. See Plutarch’s Life.
5. Herodotus, Bk. III.
6. Histoire Universelle.
|Κ.Π. Καβάφης, Τα πεζά (1882;-1931), Φιλολογική επιμέλεια Mιχάλης Πιερής, Ίκαρος Εκδοτική Εταιρία, 2003 |