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Darius and Scabbards

Posted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 4:34 pm
by sean_m
Somewhere in the ancient sources, there is a story that Darius had ordered that his soldiers replace their Persian scabbards with ones in the Greek form, and after he was defeated people remembered it as an omen. Its not in Diodorus 17.53.1 or the corresponding passage of Curtius Rufus about how Darius equipped his second army.

Can anyone else remember this story and name the source? I am thinking about ideas of Greek influence on the Persians and how far they are based on the ancient sources.

Re: Darius and Scabbards

Posted: Sat Sep 16, 2017 4:13 pm
by delos13
I don't remember ever reading about it but now that I did, I am curious to find out the source. I hope somebody will provide an answer.

Re: Darius and Scabbards

Posted: Sun Sep 17, 2017 9:25 pm
by amyntoros
It IS in Curtius, but I confess I had to search it out as I didn't recall it either.

Quintis Curtius Book 3.3.2-7

Then, worried as he (Darius) was by pressing cares, he was also tormented in sleep by visions of imminent dangers, whether these were called up by anxiety or (3) by the divining power of a prophetic mind. Alexander's camp seemed to him to shine with a great glow of fire, and he dreamed that a little later Alexander was brought to him in the garb in which he himself had been made king, and that then, riding on horseback through Babylon, he had vanished from his (4) sight, horse and all. Besides this, the soothsayers had distracted his troubled mind by various interpretations; some said that that dream was of good omen for the king because the enemies' camp had burned, and because he had seen Alexander, after laying aside his regal dress, brought to him attired as a Persian, and that too, dressed like one of the (5) common sort; others disagreed: for they conjectured that to have seen the Macedonians' camp illuminated foretold brilliance for Alexander, that he was fated even to see the rule of Asia was shown beyond doubt, since Darius had worn the same attire when (6) he was named king. Worry had recalled old omens also, as is usual; for they bethought themselves that Darius at the beginning of his rule had ordered that the form of the Persian scabbard of the scimitar should be changed to that shape which the Greeks used, and that the Chaldeans had at once declared that the empire of the Persians would pass to those (7) whose arms he had imitated. However, Darius himself, rejoicing greatly both because of the prediction of the seers which was made public, and the vision which had appeared to him in his sleep, gave orders that the camp should be advanced towards the Euphrates.

Best Regards,

Re: Darius and Scabbards

Posted: Sun Sep 17, 2017 11:05 pm
by sean_m
Thanks Amyntoros! And that gets me into my rant about translating akinakes as "scimitar" when the two weapons have nothing in common ...

Re: Darius and Scabbards

Posted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 2:30 am
by amyntoros
I used an online Loeb translation by John C. Rolfe, from 1971, I think. I try to use texts that are readily available but would be happy to see a better translation if anyone would like to post.

Best Regards,

Re: Darius and Scabbards

Posted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 2:18 pm
by sean_m
No, its an old problem in English, French, and German research stretching back before the First World War https://bookandsword.com/2017/09/02/som ... was-right/ I also talk about this idea and how it persisted after surviving weapons and good photos of the monuments were available in my PhD thesis and maybe in an upcoming conference paper ...

In Alexander's day, soldiers were more likely to use curved swords the farther from Persia and the closer to Macedonia they lived.