A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to author Roby Sweet. Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Night the Cats Saved Egypt



There once was an Egyptian pharaoh named Shebitku who foolishly disrespected the warriors in his country, so that they refused to fight for him. This became a problem when the mighty Assyrians marched against Egypt to conquer it.

Shebitku was understandably worried. The enemy was approaching, and he had no army to defend his country and people. It seemed that Egypt would be lost, and with this thought, Shebitku lost his hope and his courage. Weeping, he ran into the temple of the god Hephaistos and cried out in hopeless complaint about how terrible his situation was (though he was in fact the source of his own problem—please see the first sentence of the story). Still weeping, the pharaoh fell asleep and dreamed that Hephaistos stood next to him, telling him to take heart and go out cheerfully to meet the enemy. He would have all he needed, the god promised.

And so Shebitku woke feeling refreshed and hopeful, and that day he gathered an army not of warriors but of shopkeepers and craftsmen. With this ragtag bunch the pharaoh marched out and made camp near the Assyrian army, fully expecting that somehow his gang of untested tradesmen would defeat thousands of trained warriors in battle the following day.

That night, hungry field mice swarmed over the Assyrian camp, devouring bowstrings, quivers, and shield handles, so that in the morning the warriors had no weapons. The unarmed Assyrians wisely fled, while the ragtag band of Egyptian tradesmen, whose weapons had not been destroyed, attacked the rear and inflicted heavy losses.

You may have noticed that so far no cat has appeared in this story. Actually, there have been lots of cats, but they have been in the background. For it was the cats revered by the Egyptians that kept the swarm of field mice away from the Egyptian camp and so preserved the Egyptians’ weapons.

And that is how the cats saved Egypt one night.

[This story is from Herodotus’ The Histories (2.141). The cat connection is made in Donald Engels’ excellent book Classical Cats (p. 43–44). She of Little Talent has her doubts about the cat connection in this story, but she is an idiot so let’s not listen to her.]

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