Αὐτίκα δὲ προβαλλομένων ὅντινα στήσονται βασιλέα, ὁ Δηιόκης ἦν πολλὸς ὑπὸ παντὸς ἀνδρὸς καὶ προβαλλόμενος καὶ αἰνεόμενος, ἐς ὃ τοῦτον καταινέουσι βασιλέα σφίσι εἶναι. ὁ δ’ ἐκέλευε αὐτοὺς οἰκία τε ἑωυτῷ ἄξια τῆς βασιληίης οἰκοδομῆσαι καὶ κρατῦναι αὐτὸν δορυφόροισι· ποιεῦσι δὴ ταῦτα οἱ Μῆδοι. οἰκοδομέουσί τε γὰρ αὐτῷ οἰκία μεγάλα τε καὶ ἰσχυρά, ἵνα αὐτὸς ἔφρασε τῆς χώρης, καὶ δορυφόρους αὐτῷ ἐπιτρέπουσι ἐκ πάντων Μήδων καταλέξασθαι. ὁ δὲ ὡς ἔσχε τὴν ἀρχήν, τοὺς Μήδους ἠνάγκασε ἓν πόλισμα ποιήσασθαι καὶ τοῦτο περιστέλλοντας τῶν ἄλλων ἧσσον ἐπιμέλεσθαι. πειθομένων δὲ καὶ ταῦτα τῶν Μήδων οἰκοδομέει τείχεα μεγάλα τε καὶ καρτερὰ ταῦτα τὰ νῦν Ἀγβάτανα κέκληται, ἕτερον ἑτέρῳ κύκλῳ ἐνεστεῶτα. μεμηχάνηται δὲ οὕτω τοῦτο τὸ τεῖχος ὥστε ὁ ἕτερος τοῦ ἑτέρου κύκλος τοῖσι προμαχεῶσι μούνοισι ἐστι ὑψηλότερος. τὸ μέν κού τι καὶ τὸ χωρίον συμμαχέει κολωνὸς ἐὼν ὥστε τοιοῦτο εἶναι, τὸ δὲ καὶ μᾶλλόν τι ἐπετηδεύθη. κύκλων δ’ ἐόντων τῶν συναπάντων ἑπτά, ἐν δὴ τῷ τελευταίῳ τὰ βασιλήια ἔνεστι καὶ οἱ θησαυροί. τὸ δ’ αὐτῶν μέγιστόν ἐστι τεῖχος κατὰ τὸν Ἀθηνέων κύκλον μάλιστά κῃ τὸ μέγαθος. τοῦ μὲν δὴ πρώτου κύκλου οἱ προμαχεῶνες εἰσὶ λευκοί, τοῦ δὲ δευτέρου μέλανες, τρίτου δὲ κύκλου φοινίκεοι, τετάρτου δὲ κυάνεοι, πέμπτου δὲ σανδαράκινοι. οὕτω τῶν πέντε κύκλων οἱ προμαχεῶνες ἠνθισμένοι εἰσὶ φαρμάκοισι· δύο δὲ οἱ τελευταῖοί εἰσὶ ὁ μὲν καταργυρωμένους ὁ δὲ κατακεχρυσωμένους ἔχων τοὺς προμαχεῶνας. ταῦτα μὲν δὴ ὁ Δηιόκης ἑωυτῷ τε ἐτείχεε καὶ περὶ τὰ ἑωυτοῦ οἰκία, τὸν δὲ ἄλλον δῆμον πέριξ ἐκέλευε τὸ τεῖχος οἰκέειν. οἰκοδομηθέντων δὲ πάντων κόσμον τόνδε Δηιόκης πρῶτός ἐστι ὁ καταστησάμενος, μήτε ἐσιέναι παρὰ βασιλέα μηδένα, δι’ ἀγγέλων δὲ πάντα χρᾶσθαι, ὁρᾶσθαι τε βασιλέα ὑπὸ μηδενός, πρός τε τούτοισι ἔτι γελᾶν τε καὶ ἀντίον πτύειν καὶ ἅπασι εἶναι τοῦτό γε αἰσχρόν. ταῦτα δὲ περὶ ἑωυτὸν ἐσέμνυνε τῶνδε εἵνεκεν, ὅκως ἂν μὴ ὁρῶντες οἱ ὁμήλικες, ἐόντες σύντροφοί τε ἐκείνῳ καὶ οἰκίης οὐ φλαυροτέρης οὐδὲ ἐς ἀνδραγαθίην λειπόμενοι, λυπεοίατο καὶ ἐπιβουλεύοιεν, ἀλλ’ ἑτεροῖός σφι δοκέοι εἶναι μὴ ὁρῶσι.
(Herodotus, Hist. 1.98-99)
They were immediately faced with the question of whom to appoint as king. Everyone was full of praise for Deioces and wholeheartedly endorsed his nomination, until at length they agreed that he should be their king. He ordered them to build him a palace fit for a king and to assign him personal guards for his protection, and the Medes did so: they built him a large, secure residence in a part of the country he designated, and they let him pick his personal guards from among the whole Median population. Once power was in his hands, Deioces insisted that the Medes build a single city and maintain this one place, which involved caring less for their other communities. The Medes obeyed him in this too; they built the place which is now known as Ecbatana—a huge, impregnable stronghold consisting of concentric circles of defensive walls. This stronghold is designed so that each successive circle is higher than the one below it just by the height of its bastions. This design is helped, of course, to a certain extent by the fact that the place is on a hill, but it was also deliberately made that way. There are seven circles altogether, and the innermost one contains the royal palace and the treasuries. The largest of the walls is approximately the same size as the wall around Athens. The bastions of the outer five circles have all been painted various colours—first white, then black, red, blue, and orange. But as for the bastions of the last two circles, the first are covered in silver and the second in gold. So Deioces had this stronghold built for himself, surrounding his own residence, but he told the whole population to build their houses outside the stronghold. Once the building programme was completed, Deioces was the first to establish the following rules: no one was to enter “into the king’s presence, but all business was to be conducted through messengers; the king was to be seen by no one; and furthermore absolutely no one was to commit the offence of laughing or spitting in the king’s presence. The reason he instituted this grandiose system of how to behave in relation to himself was to prevent any of his peers seeing him. They had been brought up with him, their lineage was no worse than his, and they were just as brave as he was, so he was worried that if they saw him they might get irritated and conspire against him; on the other hand, if they could not see him, they might think that he had changed. (tr. Robin Waterfield)