Herodotus, The Histories – Extract – The Gate of the Dead Queen

This same queen [Nitocris] also contrived a snare of the following kind: — Over that gate of the city through which the greatest number of people passed she set up for herself a tomb above the very gate itself. And on the tomb she engraved writing which said: « If any of the kings of Babylon who come after me shall be in want of wealth, let him open my tomb and take as much as he desires; but let him not open it for no other cause, if he be not in want; for that will not be the better way. » This tomb was undisturbed until the kingdom came to Dareios; but to Dareios it seemed that it was a monstrous thing not to make any use of this gate, and also, when there was money lying there, not to take it, considering the inscription itself invited him to do so. Now he would not make any use of this gate because the corpse would have been above his head as he drove through. He then, I say, opened the tomb and found not indeed money but the corpse, with writing which said: « If you had not been insatiable for wealth and basely covetous, you would not have opened the resting-place of the dead. »

This is neat. But I can’t help but think that in lieu of this mild disapproval it should have ended with a terrible world-shattering curse!

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