Cat Shields

The Battle of Pelusium was the first major battle between the Persian Empire and Egypt, soon to be conquered by its growing foe.  The Persians easily routed the Egyptians and won a great battle, and they did so in the following way, according to Polyaenus.  The Egyptians held cats to be sacred and inviolate, and refused to harm one for any reason.  Cambyses, who disdained such religious devotion, took advantage of this.  He had his men carry cats in front of them as they advanced, as shields, preventing the Egyptians from launching their arrows at the Persians, lest they wound and kill the cats instead.  In this way, the Persians ended the independence of Egypt, which it would not regain for more than a millennium.


The Persian Death Penalty

In Ancient Persia, before someone could be put to death for a crime, a tally was made of their good and evil deeds.  Only if their evil deeds outweighed the sum of their good deeds could they be put to death.  If they had done more good than ill, however, they were allowed to remain alive.

Cyrus’s Camels

Cyrus the Great invaded Lydia in order to defeat King Croesus.  The Lydians were famed for their proficiency with cavalry.  In order to defeat them at their strength, Cyrus mounted his cavalry upon camels instead of horses.  For horses naturally fear the smell of camels, unless trained to familiarity.  So when Cyrus’s camel troops advanced, Croesus’s horses were unable to stand the smell of them and retreated from the camels, and thusly did Cyrus defeat Croesus.

The Throne of Otanes

In the reign of Cambyses, son of Cyrus the Great and Emperor of Persia, the judge Sisamnes was bribed, and gave an unjust verdict.  Cambyses had his throat slit and flayed off his skin.  The skin was cut into straps and stretched upon the chair on which Sisamnes had once proclaimed his judgements.  His son, Otanes, was then appointed to his father’s former position, and advised to remember the seat upon which he rendered justice.

Darius and the Burials of the Greeks and Callatians

Darius, the Great King of the Persian Empire, once called together some Greeks and some Callatians, an Indian people, who were at his court.  To the Greeks, who cremated their dead, he asked what it would take for them to eat their dead fathers.  The Greeks were abhorred, and protested that they would not do such an act for any amount of money.  He then asked the Callatians, with an interpreter for the Greeks, what it would for them to cremate their dead fathers, and they protested as strongly as the Greeks had, for the custom of the Callatians was to eat their dead.  “Don’t mention such horrors!” they cried.  Thusly Darius showed that it is custom, not reason, that guides many of our actions.