The Combats

The queen was received at Babylon with all those transports of joy

which are ever felt on the return of a beautiful princess who hath been

involved in calamities. Babylon was now in greater tranquillity. The

Prince of Hircania had been killed in battle. The victorious

Babylonians declared that the queen should marry the man whom they

should choose for their sovereign. They were resolved that the first

place in the worl
, that of being husband to Astarte and King of

Babylon, should not depend on cabals and intrigues. They swore to

acknowledge for king the man who, upon trial, should be found to be

possessed of the greatest valor and the greatest wisdom. Accordingly,

at the distance of a few leagues from the city, a spacious place was

marked out for the list, surrounded with magnificent amphitheaters.

Thither the combatants were to repair in complete armor. Each of them

had a separate apartment behind the amphitheaters, where they were

neither to be seen nor known by anyone. Each was to encounter four

knights, and those that were so happy as to conquer four were then to

engage with one another; so that he who remained the last master of the

field would be proclaimed conqueror at the games.

Four days after he was to return with the same arms and to explain the

enigmas proposed by the magi. If he did not explain the enigmas he was

not king; and the running at the lances was to be begun afresh till a

man would be found who was conqueror in both these combats; for they

were absolutely determined to have a king possessed of the greatest

wisdom and the most invincible courage. The queen was all the while to

be strictly guarded: she was only allowed to be present at the games,

and even there she was to be covered with a veil; but was not permitted

to speak to any of the competitors, that so they might neither receive

favor, nor suffer injustice.

These particulars Astarte communicated to her lover, hoping that in

order to obtain her he would show himself possessed of greater courage

and wisdom than any other person. Zadig set out on his journey,

beseeching Venus to fortify his courage and enlighten his

understanding. He arrived on the banks of the Euphrates on the eve of

this great day. He caused his device to be inscribed among those of the

combatants, concealing his face and his name, as the law ordained; and

then went to repose himself in the apartment that fell to him by lot.

His friend Cador, who, after the fruitless search he had made for him

in Egypt, was now returned to Babylon, sent to his tent a complete suit

of armor, which was a present from the queen; as also, from himself,

one of the finest horses in Persia. Zadig presently perceived that

these presents were sent by Astarte; and from thence his courage

derived fresh strength, and his love the most animating hopes.

Next day, the queen being seated under a canopy of jewels, and the

amphitheaters filled with all the gentlemen and ladies of rank in

Babylon, the combatants appeared in the circus. Each of them came and

laid his device at the feet of the grand magi. They drew their devices

by lot; and that of Zadig was the last. The first who advanced was a

certain lord, named Itobad, very rich and very vain, but possessed of

little courage, of less address, and hardly of any judgment at all. His

servants had persuaded him that such a man as he ought to be king; he

had said in reply, "Such a man as I ought to reign"; and thus they had

armed him for a cap-a-pie. He wore an armor of gold enameled with

green, a plume of green feathers, and a lance adorned with green

ribbons. It was instantly perceived by the manner in which Itobad

managed his horse, that it was not for such a man as he that Heaven

reserved the scepter of Babylon. The first knight that ran against him

threw him out of his saddle; the second laid him flat on his horse's

buttocks, with his legs in the air, and his arms extended. Itobad

recovered himself, but with so bad a grace that the whole amphitheater

burst out a-laughing. The third knight disdained to make use of his

lance; but, making a pass at him, took him by the right leg and,

wheeling him half round, laid him prostrate on the sand. The squires of

the game ran to him laughing, and replaced him in his saddle. The

fourth combatant took him by the left leg, and tumbled him down on the

other side. He was conducted back with scornful shouts to his tent,

where, according to the law, he was to pass the night; and as he limped

along with great difficulty he said, "What an adventure for such a man

as I!"

The other knights acquitted themselves with greater ability and

success. Some of them conquered two combatants; a few of them

vanquished three; but none but Prince Otamus conquered four. At last

Zadig fought him in his turn. He successively threw four knights off

their saddles with all the grace imaginable. It then remained to be

seen who should be conqueror, Otamus or Zadig. The arms of the first

were gold and blue, with a plume of the same color; those of the last

were white. The wishes of all the spectators were divided between the

knight in blue and the knight in white. The queen, whose heart was in a

violent palpitation, offered prayers to Heaven for the success of the

white color.

The two champions made their passes and vaults with so much agility,

they mutually gave and received such dexterous blows with their lances,

and sat so firmly in their saddles, that everybody but the queen wished

there might be two kings in Babylon. At length, their horses being

tired and their lances broken, Zadig had recourse to this stratagem: He

passes behind the blue prince; springs upon the buttocks of his horse;

seizes him by the middle; throws him on the earth; places himself in

the saddle; and wheels around Otamus as he lay extended on the ground.

All the amphitheater cried out, "Victory to the white knight!"

Otamus rises in a violent passion, and draws his sword; Zadig leaps

from his horse with his saber in his hand. Both of them are now on the

ground, engaged in a new combat, where strength and agility triumph by

turns. The plumes of their helmets, the studs of their bracelets, the

rings of their armor, are driven to a great distance by the violence of

a thousand furious blows. They strike with the point and the edge; to

the right, to the left, on the head, on the breast; they retreat; they

advance; they measure swords; they close; they seize each other; they

bend like serpents; they attack like lions; and the fire every moment

flashes from their blows.

At last Zadig, having recovered his spirits, stops; makes a feint;

leaps upon Otamus; throws him on the ground and disarms him; and Otamus

cries out, "It is thou alone, O white knight, that oughtest to reign

over Babylon!" The queen was now at the height of her joy. The knight

in blue armor and the knight in white were conducted each to his own

apartment, as well as all the others, according to the intention of the

law. Mutes came to wait upon them and to serve them at table. It may be

easily supposed that the queen's little mute waited upon Zadig. They

were then left to themselves to enjoy the sweets of repose till next

morning, at which time the conqueror was to bring his device to the

grand magi, to compare it with that which he had left, and make himself


Zadig, though deeply in love, was so much fatigued that he could not

help sleeping. Itobad, who lay near him, never closed his eyes. He

arose in the night, entered his apartment, took the white arms and the

device of Zadig, and put his green armor in their place. At break of

day he went boldly to the grand magi to declare that so great a man as

he was conqueror. This was little expected; however, he was proclaimed

while Zadig was still asleep. Astarte, surprised and filled with

despair, returned to Babylon. The amphitheater was almost empty when

Zadig awoke; he sought for his arms, but could find none but the green

armor. With this he was obliged to cover himself, having nothing else

near him. Astonished and enraged, he put it on in a furious passion,

and advanced in this equipage.

The people that still remained in the amphitheater and the circus

received him with hoots and hisses. They surrounded him and insulted

him to his face. Never did man suffer such cruel mortifications. He

lost his patience; with his saber he dispersed such of the populace as

dared to affront him; but he knew not what course to take. He could not

see the queen; he could not claim the white armor she had sent him

without exposing her; and thus, while she was plunged in grief, he was

filled with fury and distraction. He walked on the banks of the

Euphrates, fully persuaded that his star had destined him to inevitable

misery, and resolving in his own mind all his misfortunes, from the

adventure of the woman who hated one-eyed men to that of his armor.

"This," said he, "is the consequence of my having slept too long. Had I

slept less, I should now have been King of Babylon and in possession of

Astarte. Knowledge, virtue, and courage have hitherto served only to

make me miserable." He then let fall some secret murmurings against

Providence, and was tempted to believe that the world was governed by a

cruel destiny, which oppressed the good and prospered knights in green

armor. One of his greatest mortifications was his being obliged to wear

that green armor which had exposed him to such contumelious treatment.

A merchant happening to pass by, he sold it to him for a trifle and

bought a gown and a long bonnet. In this garb he proceeded along the

banks of the Euphrates, filled with despair, and secretly accusing

Providence, which thus continued to persecute him with unremitting