Greek Name: Ἰχθυοφάγοι

Latin Name: Ichthyophagi


Cultural Notes

Knew the Ethiopian language

Geographical Notes

A tribe inhabiting Elephantine

Citations in Herodotos

3.19 those who spoke Ethiopian language sent for from Elephantine; 3.20 arrived from Elephantine at Cambyses ' summons; 3.21 arrived among Ethiopians; 3.22 Ethiopian King inquires about Persian goods; 3.25 Fish-eaters return to Cambyses, insighting conflict; 3.30 cambyses has brother Smerdis killed

Key Passages in English Translation

[3.19] When Cambyses determined to send the spies, he sent for those Fish-eaters from the city of Elephantine who understood the Ethiopian language. [2] While they were fetching them, he ordered his fleet to sail against Carthage. But the Phoenicians said they would not do it; for they were bound, they said, by strong oaths, and if they sailed against their own progeny they would be doing an impious thing; and the Phoenicians being unwilling, the rest were inadequate fighters. [3] Thus the Carthaginians escaped being enslaved by the Persians; for Cambyses would not use force with the Phoenicians, seeing that they had willingly surrendered to the Persians, and the whole fleet drew its strength from them. The Cyprians too had come of their own accord to aid the Persians against Egypt.

English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920. Retreived from <>

Key Passages in Greek

[3.19] ἡ μὲν δὴ τράπεζα τοῦ ἡλίου καλεομένη λέγεται εἶναι τοιήδε. Καμβύσῃ δὲ ὡς ἔδοξε πέμπειν τοὺς κατασκόπους, αὐτίκα μετεπέμπετο ἐξ Ἐλεφαντίνης πόλιος τῶν Ἰχθυοφάγων ἀνδρῶν τοὺς ἐπισταμένους τὴν Αἰθιοπίδα γλῶσσαν. [2] ἐν ᾧ δὲ τούτους μετήισαν, ἐν τούτῳ ἐκέλευε ἐπὶ τὴν Καρχηδόνα πλέειν τὸν ναυτικὸν στρατόν. Φοίνικες δὲ οὐκ ἔφασαν ποιήσειν ταῦτα: ὁρκίοισι γὰρ μεγάλοισι ἐνδεδέσθαι, καὶ οὐκ ἂν ποιέειν ὅσια ἐπὶ τοὺς παῖδας τοὺς ἑωυτῶν στρατευόμενοι. Φοινίκων δὲ οὐ βουλομένων οἱ λοιποὶ οὐκ ἀξιόμαχοι ἐγίνοντο. [3] Καρχηδόνιοι μέν νυν οὕτω δουλοσύνην διέφυγον πρὸς Περσέων: Καμβύσης γὰρ βίην οὐκ ἐδικαίου προσφέρειν Φοίνιξι, ὅτι σφέας τε αὐτοὺς ἐδεδώκεσαν Πέρσῃσι καὶ πᾶς ἐκ Φοινίκων ἤρτητο ὁ ναυτικὸς στρατός. δόντες δὲ καὶ Κύπριοι σφέας αὐτοὺς Πέρσῃσι ἐστρατεύοντο ἐπ᾽ Αἴγυπτον. ’

Other Testimonia

Strabo, Geography Book 16, chapter 4

Pausanias, Description of Greece

[1.33.4] It is not the river Ocean, but the farthest part of the sea navigated by man, near which dwell the Iberians and the Celts, and Ocean surrounds the island of Britain. But of the Aethiopians beyond Syene, those who live farthest in the direction of the Red Sea are the Ichthyophagi (Fish-eaters), and the gulf round which they live is called after them. The most righteous of them inhabit the city Meroe and what is called the Aethiopian plain. These are they who show the Table of the Sun, and they have neither sea nor river except the Nile.

Other Commentary

Perseus Encyclopedia:

Ichthyophagi, a tribe inhabiting Elephantine

W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotos:

  Ἰχθυοφάγων. The ‘fish-eaters’ are placed by Pausanias (i. 33. 4) on the south coasts of the Red Sea; cf. Diod. iii. 15-20 for a marvellous account of them. The Persian messengers went ‘from Elephantine’ to ‘fetch’ them, as the place whence the caravans started south-east from the Nile.

Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon

ἰχθυ^όφα^γ-ος , ον,
A.eating fish, Clearch.74; “ἔθνη” Porph.Abst.1.13; οἰ Ἰ. ἄνδρες the Fish-eaters, a tribe on the Arabian Gulf, Hdt.3.19, cf. Str.16.4.4, Paus.1.33.4; another on the Persian Gulf, Str.15.2.1.
(Ἰχθυοφάγοι, “fish-eaters”). A vaguely descriptive name given by the ancients to various peoples on the coasts of Asia and Africa, of whom they knew but little. Thus we find Ichthyophagi
1. in the extreme southeast of Asia, in the country of the Sinae;
2.on the coast of Gedrosia;
3.on the northeastern coast of Arabia Felix; Africa, on the coast of the Red Sea, above Egypt;
5.on the western coast of Africa.


Name given to various peoples by ancient Greeks.