Crossing the Gyndes

In about 540 B.C. a great Persian king, named Cyrus, was sweeping with a vast army across Eastern Europe and the Near East. He had conquered many nations and was now advancing towards the city of Babylon. One day he and his armies came to the banks of the river Gyndes (probably the modern Diyálah). Before Cyrus could make arrangements for the crossing, one of the high-spirited, sacred white stallions accompanying the army entered the water and tried to swim across. The current seized him and bore him away down the river, where he drowned. Cyrus was not used to receiving defiance from anyone – not even rivers – and, enraged at the death of the horse, vowed to break the strength of the insolent Gyndes: “Henceforth,” he swore, “even women shall be able to cross it easily without wetting their knees.”

Temporarily shelving his attack on Babylon, Cyrus divided his army into two parts, and marked out one hundred and eighty trenches on either side of the river. He commanded the two halves of the army to dig them out, and to divert the waters into the three hundred and sixty channels thus formed. This huge undertaking delayed the progress of his army for a year, but at length the work was completed and Cyrus was able to march in triumph across the Gyndes – now reduced to a network of insignificant streams.

Retold from the Histories of Herodotus                                              
~Bethan Lewis~

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