Herodotus on Mykerinos (Menkaure)

Mykerinos (Menkaure) was a benevolent ruler, according to Herodotus. He re-opened the temples and allowed the people to return to a happy life free of toil. He claims that the Pharaoh was so grieved by the death of his only child that he interred her in a cow made of precious wood covered in gold. This statue was placed in a chamber of the royal palace in Sais where Herodotus claimed it had remained until his own time! He also claims that there were twenty colossal wooden naked statues in the next chamber, along with images of the king’s concubines.

Herodotus also tells of an alternative rumour that the king had fallen for his own daughter, and raped her. She strangled herself and he placed her in the wooden cow. The wooden statues were supposed to have been the handmaidens who had betrayed the princess (it is unclear how). In revenge, the princess’ mother had their hands cut off, and the statues likewise have no hands. Even Herodotus was not fully convinced by this, noting that the hands had probably fallen off due to age.

Interestingly, he notes that the statue of the cow bears a sun disk between its horns and is carried down the streets of the city once a year. Clearly he is referring to the image of Hathor (or Isis-Hathor) which was used during her festival.

Herodotus also records that an Oracle told the king that he only had six years to live. The King complained that he had been a pious leader and did not deserve to die and the Oracle confirmed that the Gods had decreed that Egypt suffer one hundred and fifty years of misery, and that he had spoiled it by being nice! The king allegedly decided to live night and day and indulge his every whim in order to make the most of his time.

Herodotus: Pharaohs

Copyright J Hill 2010