After this they marched forward with the design of invading Egypt.
When they had reached Palestine, however, Psammetichus the Egyptian
king met them with gifts and prayers, and prevailed on them to advance
no further. On their return, passing through Ascalon, a city of Syria,
the greater part of them went their way without doing any damage;
but some few who lagged behind pillaged the temple of Celestial Venus.
I have inquired and find that the temple at Ascalon is the most
ancient of all the temples to this goddess; for the one in Cyprus,
as the Cyprians themselves admit, was built in imitation of it; and
that in Cythera was erected by the Phoenicians, who belong to this
part of Syria. The Scythians who plundered the temple were punished by
the goddess with the female sickness, which still attaches to their
posterity. They themselves confess that they are afflicted with the
disease for this reason, and travellers who visit Scythia can see what
sort of a disease it is. Those who suffer from it are called Enarees.
The dominion of the Scythians over Asia lasted eight-and-twenty
years, during which time their insolence and oppression spread ruin on
every side. For besides the regular tribute, they exacted from the
several nations additional imposts, which they fixed at pleasure;
and further, they scoured the country and plundered every one of
whatever they could. At length Cyaxares and the Medes invited the
greater part of them to a banquet, and made them drunk with wine,
after which they were all massacred. The Medes then recovered their
empire, and had the same extent of dominion as before. They took
Nineveh- I will relate how in another history- and conquered all
Assyria except the district of Babylonia. After this Cyaxares died,
having reigned over the Medes, if we include the time of the
Scythian rule, forty years.
Astyages, the son of Cyaxares, succeeded to the throne. He had a
daughter who was named Mandane concerning whom he had a wonderful
dream. He dreamt that from her such a stream of water flowed forth
as not only to fill his capital, but to flood the whole of Asia.
This vision he laid before such of the Magi as had the gift of
interpreting dreams, who expounded its meaning to him in full, whereat
he was greatly terrified. On this account, when his daughter was now
of ripe age, he would not give her in marriage to any of the Medes who
were of suitable rank, lest the dream should be accomplished; but he
married her to a Persian of good family indeed, but of a quiet temper,
whom he looked on as much inferior to a Mede of even middle condition.
Thus Cambyses (for so was the Persian called) wedded Mandane,
and took her to his home, after which, in the very first year,
Astyages saw another vision. He fancied that a vine grew from the womb
of his daughter, and overshadowed the whole of Asia. After this dream,
which he submitted also to the interpreters, he sent to Persia and
fetched away Mandane, who was now with child, and was not far from her
time. On her arrival he set a watch over her, intending to destroy the
child to which she should give birth; for the Magian interpreters
had expounded the vision to foreshow that the offspring of his
daughter would reign over Asia in his stead. To guard against this,
Astyages, as soon as Cyrus was born, sent for Harpagus, a man of his
own house and the most faithful of the Medes, to whom he was wont to
entrust all his affairs, and addressed him thus- "Harpagus, I
beseech thee neglect not the business with which I am about to
charge thee; neither betray thou the interests of thy lord for others'
sake, lest thou bring destruction on thine own head at some future
time. Take the child born of Mandane my daughter; carry him with
thee to thy home and slay him there. Then bury him as thou wilt." "Oh!
king," replied the other, "never in time past did Harpagus disoblige
thee in anything, and be sure that through all future time he will
be careful in nothing to offend. If therefore it be thy will that this
thing be done, it is for me to serve thee with all diligence."
When Harpagus had thus answered, the child was given into his
hands, clothed in the garb of death, and he hastened weeping to his
home. There on his arrival he found his wife, to whom he told all that