Tales From Herodotus XIV. Two Stories of the Alcmaeonid Family

Translated from Tales From Herodotus.

(a) How Alcmaeon was enriched by Croesus.

The Alcmaeonids were both ancient and illustrious amongst the Athenians, from Alcmaeon and again from Megacles they became very illustrious. For Alcmaeon became an assistant to the Lydians of Sardis, who arrived from Croesus, and he used to help them eagerly. When Croesus learned of this, he summoned him to Sardis. Upon his arrival, he was presented with this much gold, as much as he could possibly carry away on his own person at one time.

So Alcmaeon wore a large tunic, and left a deep fold in the tunic, and he put on high boots that were the widest he found, and he went to the treasury.

First he fell upon a heap of gold-dust, and he stuffed in beside his shins as much gold as his boots could hold, and then he filled the entire fold of his tunic with gold, and he sprinkled some of the dust in the hair of his head, and after he took the rest in his mouth, he came out of the treasury, dragging his boots with difficulty, resembling anything more than a person; for his mouth had been stuffed full and his whole body was swollen, and a fit of laughter struck Croesus when he saw him, and he gave all of that to him, and another share no lesser besides.

(b) How Megacles, son of Alcmaeon, was chosen by Cleisthenes, tyrant of Sicyon, as the best match in all Greece for his daughter.

To Cleisthenes, the tyrant of Sicyon, a daughter was born, named Agariste. And he wished to find the best man of all the Greeks and give this girl as wife to that man. Therefore, during the Olympics, when Cleisthenes won the chariot races in them, he made this public announcement, “Whoever of the Greeks would think himself worthy to become the son-in-law of Cleisthenes, come to Sicyon, and Cleisthenes shall decide the marriage within a year.”

Thenceforth, whosoever of among Greeks who were swollen with pride in themselves and in their fatherland were coming and going as suitors. From Athens, came Megacles son of Alcmaeon, who had come to Croesus, and also Hippocleides son of Tisander, who surpassed the other Athenians in wealth and looks. First, Cleisthenes made thorough inquiries of those who arrived, about their fatherlands and the family of each man; and then, keeping them with him for a year, he made trial of their manhood, their temperament, their education, and their character; and at the same time he hosted them magnificently.

And indeed, I suppose, they who came from Athens were the most pleasing of the suitors; and Hippocleides son of Tisander more than them. And when the appointed day arrived for the wedding celebration, Cleisthenes sacrificed every cow and feasted them well, both the suitors and all the Sicyonians. And when they had dined, the suitors held a contest of song and dance; and with the drink running free, Hippocleides, much outdoing the others, bid the piper pipe a dancing-song for him, and when the piper obeyed, he danced.

And he danced in a way pleasing to himself. Cleisthenes watched the whole thing, and regarded it with disfavor. And afterward, Hippocleides bid someone to bring in a table, and when the table came in, first he danced the Spartan and the Attica figures upon it, and then he pressed his head upon the table, and gesticulated with his legs. And when he first started dancing, although Cleisthenes, because of the dancing and the shameless behaviour, came to hate the thought that Hippocleides might become his son-in-law, he restrained himself, not wanting a quarrel to break out with him; but when he saw him gesticulating with his legs, he could no longer restrain himself, and he said, “Son of Tisander, you have certainly danced away* the wedding.” And Hippocleides responded, saying, “This is of no concern to Hippocleides.”

So Cleisthenes demanded silence and the space said this, “Men, suitors of my daughter, I praise you all, and I would please you all, if it were possible, neither selecting a chosen one of you, nor rejecting the rest. It is, however, not possible, when it comes to a single maden, to act according to the wishes of everyone, and so to those of you excluded from this wedding, I give you a talent of silver as a gift, but to Megacles son of Alcmaeon, I betroth my child, Agariste.

* the verb here is  ἀπορχεόμαι (aporchoumai), I dance a thing away, i. e. I lose by dancing. Seriously! And hey, is it just me, or is this guy breakdancing?

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