Tuesday, 10 April 2012

candaules and gyges

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In the story of Candaules and Gyges, written by Herodotus, Candaules loses his throne due to his obsession with his wife’s beauty. He is murdered by his favorite bodyguard, Gyges who is left with no choice but to kill the king. Candaules death is not just because it is sneaky and planned out.

Candaules is a man that is conceited and likes to brag about what he has. He is not simply content with his wifes beauty, but wants another to know about it , because he wants to show off what he has. He basically forces Gyges to see his wife naked. Gyges tries to talk the king out of this crazy idea, but the king insists in it, leaving his bodyguard with no choice. The good man that Gyges appears to be is not tempted by Candaules’ proposition. He does not want to “act wickedly”, because he knows that seeing an individual naked is not only embarrassing, but also very disrespectful. Especially if the individual is of a royal family. Gyges does as the king ordered him to do. He hides behind a door and observes the queen undress. However, when he tries to sneak out she sees him. The queen outsmarts the king by acting like she did not know what was happening. She decides to stay calm and not say anything to her husband. The next morning Candaules wife calls Gyges into her presence and accuses him of violating their customs by looking at her naked. This act is not only wicked to the Lydians, but also more on a universal scale. The queen is very disappointed at Gyges’ violation to the customs and proposes him to either kill the king and take over the throne, or to die himself. Gyges chooses life for himself and therefore he takes the queens proposition and kills the king.

The text gives away few clues about the killing being unjust. I call it unjust because I feel that the killing was a murder. First murder clue was a statement made by the queen when she was talking to Gyges. When Gyges decided to kill the king, she responded by saying “Let him be attacked.” (pg. 14). This gives us an idea that the killing was somewhat planned, and agreed on by both of them. Another statement by the queen was “…let the assault be made when he is asleep.” (pg. 14). By saying this, we get an idea that the queen wanted the king dead, without him putting up a fight. This decision was not made by a judge, the oracle, or anyone else involved. It was simply a sneaky was to get rid of the king, without anyone besides Gyges being involved. The murder was a revenge for her humiliation by her own husband. She did not want anyone to know about this incident. Without thinking about any further consequences, her decision to kill Candaules was almost immediate. Back in those days there was no government like we have now. The highest rulers were the royalty, therefore even if the queen and Gyges commited the murder, the chances of them being punished were very little.

The towns people were very raged when they heard the news about the king being murdered. Partisans of Gyges came to terms with the villagers, as well as

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the Delphic oracle confirmed Gyges as the new king. That’s the reason the towns people didn’t take matters into their own hands. However there was a twist to him being a king. The Pythian priestess told Gyges that there is a curse involved that will follow in the fifth generation. I assume that was a punishment for the murder he committed with the queen.

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