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When the Lacedaemonians learned that the Greeks of Asia were in peril, they sent a message to Cyrus1 stating that the Lacedaemonians, being kinsmen of the Greeks of Asia, forbade him to enslave the Greek cities. And Cyrus, marvelling at such words, remarked that he would judge of their valour when he should send one of his own slaves to subdue Greece. [2]

When the Lacedaemonians were setting out to conquer Arcadia,2 they received the following oracle:β€œ Arcadia dost thou demand of me?
A high demand, nor will I give it thee.
For many warriors, acorn-eaters all,
Dwell in Arcadia, and they will ward
Thee off. Yet for my part I grudge thee not.
Tegea's land, smitten with tripping feet,
I'll give to thee, wherein to dance and plot
The fertile plain with measuring-line for tilth.
” [3]

The Lacedaemonians sent to Delphi to inquire in what place the bones of Orestes, the son of Agamemnon, were buried. And the oracle replied in this wise:β€œ A certain Tegea there is of Arcady
In a smooth and level plain, where two winds blow
Before a stern necessity, to stroke
Comes answering stroke, and bane is heaped on bane.
There the life-giving earth holds fast the son
Of Agamemnon; bring thou him thence and then
The overlord of Tegea thou shalt be.
”It was a smithy that was referred to, and the oracle means by the two winds the bellows,3 signifying by "stroke" the anvil and the hammers, and by "bane heaped on bane," the iron upon iron; for iron is called a "bane" because the discovery of it has worked to the hurt of mankind. [4]

It is better to die, than to live and witness yourself and your kinsmen meeting misfortune as bad as death.

1 545 B.C.

2 c. 560 B.C.

3 The translation has been expanded, for the Greek is elliptic. The oracle and a detailed explanation of it are given in Hdt. 1.67-68.

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    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.67
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