In which babies are abandoned, for science!
So a quick recap of CLIO would go like this. First there was a guy named Croesus the Lydian, who spent a fabulous fortune, invaded Persia, and was captured by the lord of Persia, Cyrus. Cyrus kept Croesus on as an advisor, and they went on a couple of military campaigns, and eventually Cyrus was killed and Croesus was sent to be the advisor of Cyrus’s son and heir, Cambyses. That brings us to the present. Herodotus has plenty to say about Cambyses, hoo boy. His mother, Cassandane the daughter of Pharnaspes, had died well before Cyrus’s death, and it was at her funeral that a bereaving Cyrus declared Cambyses his heir. Cambyses’s first act, as head of the Persian empire, was to invade Egypt, and this is the part where Herodotus totally loses track of the narrative thread, not for the first or last time, because Eygpt is awesome you guys!!
You don’t even know how great Egypt is! You think you do, but you don’t. First off, Egyptian culture is the oldest culture. There’s two Egyptians in particular Herodotus wants to bring to our attention. First, Psammetichos, the pharaoh who invented a bunch of stuff. Second, Min, the king who invented the concept of kings in general and pharaohs named Min in particular. Min was the first king; that’s his claim to fame.
When Psammetichos became king of the Egyptians, he surveyed all the Eygptian scholars and the scholars of other, lesser nations, in hopes of proving that Egypt was the oldest nation. Or, failing that, proving that it was the second-oldest and the Phrygians were the oldest. Don’t ask about the Phrygians, you don’t even want to know. Midas, the golden touch guy? Phrygian. Gordias, the knot guy? Phrygian.
So Psammetichos figured either the Phrygians or the Egyptians were the oldest race, and he proved which it was with science!
PSAMMETICHOS’S SCIENCE EXPERIMENT: A LAB REPORT
Hyptothesis: a baby raised in isolation will speak the language which comes naturally to humanity, which is the language of our oldest culture.
Introduction: For many ages scientists have wondered which came first, the Eygptian or the Phyrgian. Now science can show us the truth, with babies.
Materials: Two babies; herd of goats; goat-herder; several women; a sharp knife.
Methods: The women had their tongues cut out. The two babies were placed among the goats and entrusted to the goat-herder and the women. The goat-herder was forbidden from speaking in the presence of the babies. The babies were fed goat milk by she-goats from the herd and cared for by the women.
Results: The babies grew up not speaking any language. After two years one of the babies said “bekos” at mealtime, and said it again persistently.
Discussion and Conclusion: Bekos is the Phrygian word for bread. Therefore the Phrygian language is the language which comes naturally to babies raised in isolation, which means Phrygians must possess the oldest culture.
In addition to their awesome science experiments, Herodotus says, the Egyptians invented months. They were better at calendars than the Greeks, you can tell, because their calendar had twelve months of thirty days each, plus five intercalated days (12×30+5=365 days); the Greek calendar was all screwy and they had to throw in a Leap Month every other year (12x28x2+46=730 days, maybe?). Egyptians invented a whole pile of stuff. Altars, for instance, and engraving. They didn’t invent the gods, that would be crazy to think that, but they did determine what the gods looked like. Then they made altars and engraved images of the gods on them. See? It all hangs together.
They also colonized the Nile river delta, which once upon a time was just open water, but gradually sediment filled in the whole Cairo-to-the-Mediterranean portion of the country. Herodotus totally buys this sedimentary deposits thing, citing personal experience trying to sail to Egypt and discovering how shallow the water is there, even a full day’s sail out from land.