Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Gyges and the Lydian Queen

Bob Georgeson, Gyges and the Lydian Queen, 2009, Photomontage

What better way to start the merry month of May with the sordid little tale of Gyges and the Lydian Queen. According to Herodotus in his 'Histories' (c. 5th century B.C.) Gyges was right hand man to Candaules, king of Lydia, which sat in present day western Turkey. Candaules was enamoured of his wife's beauty, so much so that he insisted on Gyges seeing her naked. Gyges was reluctant, but the king insisted, so he arranged for Gyges to sneak into her boudoir to watch her undress. She spotted him in his moment of voyeurism, caught between reality and desire, and compromised him with the request that he kill the king and become her lover and usurp the throne, or she would have him killed. He reluctantly (?) chose to live and carried out the queen's wishes, banishing her sons to present day Cyprus. They grew into men and returned to Lydia, killing Gyges and their mother to reclaim the throne, and everybody lived happily ever after...

There are variations of this story but I like Herodotus's version in his tales of the Persians wars with the Greeks. It is interesting that Herodotus puts the cause of these wars as conflicts arising over a woman...

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