Herodotus: I.16-20:

Ardys took Priene and made war upon Miletus. In his reign the Cimmerians, driven from their homes by the nomads of Scythia, entered Asia and captured Sardis, all but the citadel. He reigned forty-nine years, and was succeeded by his son, Sadyattes, who reigned twelve years. At his death his son Alyattes mounted the throne.

This prince waged war with the Medes under Cyaxares, the grandson of Deioces, drove the Cimmerians out of Asia, conquered Smyrna, the Colophonian colony, and invaded Clazomenae. From this last contest he did not come off as he could have wished, but met with a sore defeat; still, however, in the course of his reign, he performed other actions very worthy of note, of which I will now proceed to give an account.

Inheriting from his father a war with the Milesians, he pressed the siege against the city by attacking it in the following manner. When the harvest was ripe on the ground he marched his army into Milesia to the sound of pipes and harps, and flutes masculine and feminine. The buildings that were scattered over the country he neither pulled down nor burnt, nor did he even tear away the doors, but left them standing as they were. He cut down, however, and utterly destroyed all the trees and all the corn throughout the land, and then returned to his own dominions. It was idle for his army to sit down before the place, as the Milesians were masters of the sea. The reason that he did not demolish their buildings was that the inhabitants might be tempted to use them as homesteads from which to go forth to sow and till their lands; and so each time that he invaded the country he might find something to plunder.

In this way he carried on the war with the Milesians for eleven years, in the course of which he inflicted on them two terrible blows; one in their own country in the district of Limeneium, the other in theplain of the Maeander. During six of these eleven years, Sadyattes, the son of Ardys who first lighted the flames of this war, was king of Lydia, and made the incursions. Only the five following years belong to the reign of Alyattes, son of Sadyattes, who (as I said before) inheriting the war from his father, applied himself to it unremittingly. The Milesians throughout the contest received no help at all from any of the Ionians, excepting those of Chios, who lent them troops in requital of a like service rendered them in former times, the Milesians having fought on the side of the Chians during the whole of the war between them and the people of Erythrae.

It was in the twelfth year of the war that the following mischance occurred from the firing of the harvest-fields. Scarcely had the corn been set alight by the soldiers when a violent wind carried the flames against the temple of Minerva Assesia, which caught fire and was burnt to the ground. At the time no one made any account of the circumstance; but afterwards, on the return of the army to Sardis, Alyattes fell sick. His illness continued, whereupon, either advised thereto by some friend, or perchance himself conceiving the idea, he sent messengers to Delphi to inquire of the god concerning his malady. On their arrival the Pythoness declared that no answer should be given them until they had rebuilt the temple of Minerva, burnt by the Lydians at Assesus in Milesia.

Thus much I know from information given me by the Delphians; the remainder of the story the Milesians add.

The answer made by the oracle came to the ears of Periander, son of Cypselus, who was a very close friend to Thrasybulus, tyrant of Miletus at that period. He instantly despatched a messenger to report the oracle to him, in order that Thrasybulus, forewarned of its tenor, might the better adapt his measures to the posture of affairs.

Alyattes, the moment that the words of the oracle were reported to him, sent a herald to Miletus in hopes of concluding a truce with Thrasybulus and the Milesians for such a time as was needed to rebuild the temple. The herald went upon his way; but meantime Thrasybulus had been apprised of everything; and conjecturing what Alyattes would do, he contrived this artifice. He had all the corn that was in the city, whether belonging to himself or to private persons, brought into the market-place, and issued an order that the Milesians should hold themselves in readiness, and, when he gave the signal, should, one and all, fall to drinking and revelry.

The purpose for which he gave these orders was the following. He hoped that the Sardian herald, seeing so great store of corn upon the ground, and all the city given up to festivity, would inform Alyattes of it, which fell out as he anticipated. The herald observed the whole, and when he had delivered his message, went back to Sardis. This circumstance alone, as I gather, brought about the peace which ensued. Alyattes, who had hoped that there was now a great scarcity of corn in Miletus, and that the people were worn down to the last pitch of suffering, when he heard from the herald on his return from Miletus tidings so contrary to those he had expected, made a treaty with the enemy by which the two nations became close friends and allies. He then built at Assesus two temples to Minerva instead ofone, and shortly after recovered from his malady. Such were the chief circumstances of the war which Alyattes waged with Thrasybulus and the Milesians.

1.) What exactly was the sickness that fell upon Alyattes?
2.) Why was the temple to Minerva so important?
3.) How did the temple of Minerva curse Alyattes with a sickness for so long?
4.) If it was an accidental fire why was Alyattes the one to bear the curse?
5.) Why did Alyattes build two temples to Minerva instead of just rebuilding the one that was burnt down?


King Alyattes took the thrown upon his fathers death, which took place against the Milesians. The Milesians took Alyattes father's life so to redeem his fathers death he waged war upon them in a more destructive manner. Alyattes would storm his troops upon the Milesians and destroy all of the crops during the harvest. The war upon the Milesians took eleven years and during these years King Alyattes struck two big blows upon the Milesians. War entered into the twelth year where Alyattes came again to burn the crops during the harvesting time, but the fire grew out of control and caught the temple of Minerva on fire and it burnt to the ground. A few weeks after this happened Alyattes grew deathly ill. Alyattes sent word to the oracles in Delphi to try and understand why his sickness is getting worse, even though he takes his medicine. The messenger came back with the news from the oracle which was, "No news shall be given until the temple of Minerva is rebuilt." So being a wise guy King Alyattes told his man to rebuild the temple of Minerva, but also build another temple to Minerva for burning the first one. King Alyattes created friends with the Milesians after a twelve year battle. He created friendship so as to not upset the gods because of the burnt temple. King Alyattes after a while became better and his sickness was cured.


1.) His definite sickness was not mentioned or found but it was said that after he built those two temples to Minerva he then learned his sickness. The meaning of this meant that he learned that reason for getting sick, which meant he got sick because he was careless and did not respect the gods and therefore punished for his disrespect against the gods.
2.) Minerva was the god of doctor and medicine along with other attributes. Since she was the goddess of medicine and doctor she would then make that person who was responsible for burning her temple, to pay for his wrong doings. So she cursed him as to show him what happens when you disrespect the goddesses.
3.) The temple itself was a shrine to Minerva which again was the goddess of medicine and when Alyattes carelessly burnt the harvest he accidently caught the temple on fire. This caused Minerva to curse Alyattes for his disrespectfulness.
4.) Alyattes bore the curse expelled form Minerva because he was the one to tell his soliders to burn the crops but because he had no respect for the gods and goddesses, he let the temple catch on fire and watched it burn to the ground.
5.) Alyattes "learned his sickness", meaning he learned that respecting the gods is a thing of life and everyone must do it. So to make up for his disrespectful actions he built two temples in honor of Minerva so as to hope for forgivness. This of course worked and Alyattes was healed.

What can we learn from this?

The main thing we can learn from this story is the importance of gods and goddesses. The role they play in peoples lives and what they are truely capable of doing. Gods and goddesses are of extreme importance to the Greeks and to greek life. Just think of the amount Sparta places on religious festivals and the amount of importance they place on making the gods and goddesses happy. This story is to show us why wars are so destructive not only for people but also for the gods they worship. If people do not fear the gods then the gods have no importance in the peoples life and then the religious people would have no power or reason to be leaders. So this story mainly places importance on the fact that gods and goddesses are important to the greek people and that if you upset the gods you will pay with your life or suffer pain. Greeks placed their gods in high standards because gods are to be feared, and if feared then people will be more likely to do good, rather than go about their business without anything or anyone ruling over them.

The importance of gods was more affected on the people than those worshipped today. What I mean is that today people worship God and to pray for others, themself, or for anything they want, and God anwers or lets us figure it out for ourself. But in Greece and other places gods played an actual role and did things to or for the one praying to them. These gods actually would come down and do work against others or for others. These gods were rarely nice and the people thought that if you did something bad and something bad happened to you its because the gods were unhappy. Like in the story Alyattes became sick because he disturbed the gods peace by burning down a temple. So in ancient Greece gods would curse you if you upset them. These things just do not happen today, we pray to faithful, happy, and encouraging God. Our God gives us what we need and not want, he encourages us to give what we can and to be merry and happy through our lives. The ancient Greek gods meant and had different aspects that they were in charge of for example, Minerva was the virgin goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, and magic. So if you needed help in any of Minerva's characteristical knowledge you would pray to her and ask that she be merciful toward you, as well as tell her that you do good and you respect all gods. By pleading with Minerva you have a better chance of your prayer being answered. If you prayer is not answered you can only blame yourself, meaning you were not totally truthful to Minerva or that you have done a past wrong, which who hasn;t. So the religion of Greeks was similar to the rest of the world in that gods were angry and mean and you had to do good to receive anything or to not be cursed. So be good all the time and good things will come to you, but if you do something that the gods do not favor you shall be punished for your wrong doing.

Herodotus. The Histories. Trans. Aubrey De Selilncourt. London: Penguin Classics, 1996.
Marinatos, Nano. Art and Religion in Thera,Reconstructing a Bronze Age Society, Athens: I. Mathioulakis& Co., No date of Publication Given.
Martin, Thomas R. Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1996
Morkot, Robert. Historical Atlas of Ancient Greece. London: Penguin Books, 1996.
Pausanias.Guide to Greece 1: Central Greece. Trans. Peter Levi. London: Penguin Classics, 1971.

I thought that your summary was concise and to the point. The importance of the Gods is very strong in this document. Maybe you could relate it to current times a little more. -Alexandra Watkins

Your what can we learn section was good and hit the basics but maybe go into detail on how the Gods actually played a role in peoples lives and how the Gods are directly affected by us too. I feel the paragraph just needs a little more expansion to it. - Jayce Shaffer

Your summary was really good. I would just expand on the role of the gods and maybe on the importance of piety and religion in the culture and how the religion was shaped by the culture. - Jacob Smith