Primary Sources: Herodotus, CLIO part 2
Croesus, the king of Lydia (modern-day western Turkey, more or less) was the first foreign king to conquer part of Greece. Prior to him raiders only took plunder and stole women, says Herodotus. Croesus wasn’t the rightful king of Lydia, Herodotus tells us; he came from a line of usurpers, and man is it ever an interesting story that Herodotus wants to spend some time on!
Croesus’s great-great-grandfather, Gyges, was the close confidante of Candaules of the Heraclidae, the king at the time. Candaules was supposedly Hercules’s great-[twenty-four more greats]-grandson, hence the family name. Anyway, this guy was something of a character, inasmuch as he loved his wife.
Pretty crazy! He was nuts about her. He loved kissing her, he loved petting her, most of all he loved staring at her naked body. I mean, he didn’t talk to her or anything; he was crazy, but at least he understood that women are objects. Constantly he bragged to Gyges about how impossibly hot she was, and how lucky he was to be married to her, and how any man would gnaw his own arms off for a chance to see her naked. “She’s so hot, dude, you have no idea. You may think you do, but you don’t.”
“I get it! Quit being creepy!” was Gyges’s usual response to this, and generally that’s where it ended. But one day Candaules just wouldn’t take that for an answer.
“If you got it, you would be going out of your mind with lust, so I don’t think you get it.”
Gyges tried to assure him that yes, he did get it. “Honest, boss, I believe you when you say Candi is incredibly hot.” Herodotus doesn’t name Candaules’s wife, so let’s call her Candi.
Candaules had a flash of crazy inspiration. “There’s only one way to prove it to you! You’ve got to see her naked.”
“What? No!” Gyges wanted none of this. “That is crazy talk! It’s morally repugnant to look at a naked woman who isn’t your wife!”
“Be of good courage, Gyges, and have no fear. It’s not a crime if the king tells you to do it, and it’s especially not a crime if Candi never finds out about it. What we’ll do is, I’ll hide you in the closet of our bedroom, and then when Candi comes into slowly and sensuously strip off her clothes, you’ll be able to peek out and see her in all her nude glory. Then while she’s getting into bed, you can sneak out the door.”
Gyges thought this was a terrible idea, but Candaules wouldn’t take no for an answer. So that happened, and next thing he knew, Gyges was hiding in Candaules’s closet waiting for Candi to come in. He was about to give up and sneak away when she came in! So he had no choice but to voyeuristically peek in on her as she slowly and sensuously removed her clothing.
“Huh,” thought Gyges to himself. “She really is pretty amazingly hot.” He kept quiet, just hoping to get through it without getting caught.
Unfortunately for him, Candaules seriously underestimated Candi’s peripheral vision when he came up with this plan. For while her back was turned and she was climbing into bed, Gyges tried to sneak out, as instructed, but Candi saw him out of the corner of her eye! She whirled around, and saw Gyges’s back as he crept out. In an instant she deduced what had happened, that Gyges had been peeking on her and that Candaules had put him up to it.
At that time she then kept silence.
It’s nice to know that the frathouse comedy is an old tradition.