Tales From Herodotus V. Stories of Amasis, who usurped the throne of Egypt


Translated from Greek

b) How he justified his relaxation.

In such manner, he won over the Egyptians, so that they consented to be obedient. And he managed that state of affairs as follows; in the morning, until the marketplace filled [i.e. noon], he eagerly managed the matters brought before him; and after that he drank and made jokes with his fellows and he was idle and playful.

Those of his friends disgusted by these [antics] admonished him, saying this, “My king, you are not conducting yourself properly, leading yourself into too much frivolity. You must sit solemnly on the solemn throne managing the affairs of state for the entire day. In this way, the Egyptians would see that they were led by a man of greatness, and you would have a better reputation; but you are not now behaving in a kingly manner.”

He replied to them this, “Those who possess bows, when they need to use them, string them; and when they have used them, they unstring them; for if they kept them strung at all times, they would break, and they would not have their use when they were needed. Thus too is the nature of a man. If he wished to be always serious and never, in turn, let himself relax in play, he would never get away with it without going mad or having a stroke. Knowing this, I allot a turn to each.”

“he would never get away with it without going mad or…”: this is a very loose translation of λάθοι ἂν ἤτοι μανεὶς ἢ…, but I hope it keeps the spirit of the Greek better than a literal translation (something more like, “truly he would escape by going mad or…”)

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