A Lesson in “Loving” Too Much

Recently, I picked up the Loeb edition of Herodotus’ The Persian Wars on Logos. After all, I got it on prepublication for $4. It would have been crazy not to …

In today’s reading, I encountered a narrative about Candaules, Gyges, and Candaules’ wife. The story goes that Candaules loved his wife and her beauty to such an extent that he convinced his friend, despite much protesting, to watch in the shadows as his wife undressed. The purpose of this shameful event was to demonstrate that Candaules was indeed correct in his assessment of his wife’s beauty.

There was, however, a bit of a snafu in the plan. Gyges was supposed to leave the room without detection, but, despite his efforts, he was found out by Candaules’ wife. Though she knew what had happened, she gave no inclination to her knowledge. Instead, she decided to avenge her shame and humiliation. Calling for Gyges, she confronts him and gives him an ultimatum: kill yourself for your shameful deed or kill my husband.

In the interests of self-preservation, as you could imagine, Gyges chose the later option. Candaules’ wife, according, stages the scene in the same manner as Candaules in his shameful deed. Gyges is instructed once again to wait in the shadows and to kill Candaules.

Gyges, once again, does as he is instructed:

καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἀναπαυομένου Κανδαύλεω ὑπεκδύς τε καὶ ἀποκτείνας αὐτὸν ἔσχε καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ τὴν βασιληίην

And after these things, when Candaules was asleep, [Gyges] both sneaking in and killing him, had both Candaules’ wife and kingdom.

The moral of this story?: Don’t go showing off your wife’s γυμνός to your friend.

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2 Responses to A Lesson in “Loving” Too Much

  1. bowdenblog says:

    I’ll be sure to follow this advice. Thank you.

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