Earth and water

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In the writings of the Ancient Greek chronicler Herodotus, the phrase earth and water (γῆ καί ὕδωρ ge kai hydor) is used to represent the demand of the Persians from the cities or people who surrendered to them.

Usage in Herodotus' histories[edit]

In Book 4, Herodotus mentions for the first time the term earth and water in the answer of king Idanthyrsus of the Scythians to king Darius.[1] In Book 5, it is reported that Darius sent heralds demanding earth and water from king Amyntas I of Macedon, which he accepted.[2] It was also requested of the Athenian embassy to Artaphernes in 507 BC.[3] In the 6th book, Darius sent heralds throughout Hellas bidding them demand earth and water for the king (Hdt. 6.48).[4] There were not many city-states that refused.[5] In Book 7, he recounts that when the Persians sent envoys to the Spartans demanding the traditional symbol of surrender, an offering of soil and water, the Spartans threw them into a deep well, suggesting that upon their arrival at the bottom, they could "Dig it out for yourselves."[6]

Interpretation[edit]

The demand for earth and water symbolized that those surrendering to Persians gave up all their rights over their land and every product of the land. Giving earth and water they recognized the Persian authority over everything; even their lives belonged to the king of Persians. Then negotiations would take place to specify the obligations and the benefits of the liegemen.

The phrase earth and water, even in modern Greek, symbolizes unconditional subordination to a conqueror.

According to the modern historian J. M. Balcer, the significance of earth and water is that they were Zoroastrian symbols and representative of vassalage to the Persian Empire. "Persian heralds traveled throughout Greece demanding the recognition of Persian Suzerainty and the Zoroastrian symbols of earth and water, the marks of vassalage...".[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Waters, Matt (2014). Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550–330 BCE. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-1-10700-960-8. 
  2. ^ Joseph Roisman,Ian Worthington. "A companion to Ancient Macedonia" John Wiley & Sons, 2011. ISBN 144435163X pp 343-345
  3. ^ Waters, Matt (2014). Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550–330 BCE. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-1-10700-960-8. 
  4. ^ Waters, Matt (2014). Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550–330 BCE. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-1-10700-960-8. 
  5. ^ Waters, Matt (2014). Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550–330 BCE. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-1-10700-960-8. 
  6. ^ Herodotus The Histories, Book Seven, section 133.
  7. ^ J. M. Balcer, "The Persian Wars Against Greece: A Reassessment", Historia;; 38 (1989) p. 130

See also[edit]

Persian Wars

External links[edit]