The next morning Candi warned all the household servants that she thought were loyal to her about how something was up. She summoned Gyges, who came in whistling nonchalantly, hands in his pockets, like he had no reason to be nervous about interacting with Candi…
Candi did not mince words. “I know what happened. I know what you saw, and why you saw it. There are now two ways open to thee, Gyges, and I give thee the choice which of the two thou wilt prefer to take. Either thou must slay Candaules and possess both me and the kingdom of Lydia, or thou must thyself here on the spot be slain, so that thou mayest not in future, by obeying Candaules in all things, see that which thou shouldest not. Either he must die who formed this design, or thou who hast looked upon me naked and done that which is not accounted lawful.“
“Whoa.” Gyges found this passing heavy. “Isn’t there a third, compromise option? Where me and Candaules both live?”
“Nope.” Candi picked up her guard-summoning bell and weighed it in her hand. “What’s it going to be? Coup, or death?”
Gyges tried to be a good person, but when push came to shove he didn’t want to die. “Since thou dost compel me to take my master’s life against my own will, let me hear from thee also what is the manner in which we shall lay hands upon him. This whole coup thing is your idea, not mine.”
“Simple,” says Candi. “We wait until he’s asleep, and then you stab him. It’s poetic justice, inasmuch as our bedroom is where you saw me naked.”
So that happened! Herodotus is sure that this story is accurate because he can cite a secondary source, the poetry of Archilochos the Parian, who wrote the whole thing up in iambic trimeter.
Gyges declared himself king, married Candi, and proceeded to brutally put down the rebellion that started as soon as the Lydians found out he was a regicide who’d just usurped the throne. It was a nasty fight, and ultimately Gyges and the leading pro-Candaules fighters agreed to a cease-fire. They sent a courier to the Oracle at Delphi, asking who should be king of Lydia. The Oracle, perhaps influenced by the massive bribe Gyges sent her, asserted that Gyges should be king if that’s what he wanted, but that if he did, then his great-great-grandson would suffer for it.
“Screw that unborn guy,” said Gyges, and ruled for thirty-eight years.
Fun note: Herodotus somehow has a catalog of the massive bribe Gyges sent to Delphi. Of all the silver offerings at Delphi his are more in number than those of any other man; and besides the silver he offered
a vast quantity of gold, and especially one offering which is more worthy of mention than the rest, namely six golden mixing-bowls, which are dedicated there as his gift: of these the weight is thirty talents. Also
his gold and silver which Gyges dedicated is called Gygian by the people of Delphi, after the name of him who offered it.