Welcome
   Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Authors
Works by Herodotus
Pages of Clio



Previous | Next
                  

Clio   


When, in obedience to the orders which they had received, the
Persians came with their reaping-hooks, Cyrus led them to a tract of
ground, about eighteen or twenty furlongs each way, covered with
thorns, and ordered them to clear it before the day was out. They
accomplished their task; upon which he issued a second order to
them, to take the bath the day following, and again come to him.
Meanwhile he collected together all his father's flocks, both sheep
and goats, and all his oxen, and slaughtered them, and made ready to
give an entertainment to the entire Persian army. Wine, too, and bread
of the choicest kinds were prepared for the occasion. When the
morrow came, and the Persians appeared, he bade them recline upon
the grass, and enjoy themselves. After the feast was over, he
requested them to tell him "which they liked best, to-day's work, or
yesterday's?" They answered that "the contrast was indeed strong:
yesterday brought them nothing but what was bad, to-day everything
that was good." Cyrus instantly seized on their reply, and laid bare
his purpose in these words: "Ye men of Persia, thus do matters stand
with you. If you choose to hearken to my words, you may enjoy these
and ten thousand similar delights, and never condescend to any slavish
toil; but if you will not hearken, prepare yourselves for unnumbered
toils as hard as yesterday's. Now therefore follow my bidding, and
be free. For myself I feel that I am destined by Providence to
undertake your liberation; and you, I am sure, are no whit inferior to
the Medes in anything, least of all in bravery. Revolt, therefore,
from Astyages, without a moment's delay."
The Persians, who had long been impatient of the Median
dominion, now that they had found a leader, were delighted to shake
off the yoke. Meanwhile Astyages, informed of the doings of Cyrus,
sent a messenger to summon him to his presence. Cyrus replied, "Tell
Astyages that I shall appear in his presence sooner than he will
like." Astyages, when he received this message, instantly armed all
his subjects, and, as if God had deprived him of his senses, appointed
Harpagus to be their general, forgetting how greatly he had injured
him. So when the two armies met and engaged, only a few of the
Medes, who were not in the secret, fought; others deserted openly to
the Persians; while the greater number counterfeited fear, and fled.
Astyages, on learning the shameful flight and dispersion of his
army, broke out into threats against Cyrus, saying, "Cyrus shall
nevertheless have no reason to rejoice"; and directly he seized the
Magian interpreters, who had persuaded him to allow Cyrus to escape,
and impaled them; after which, he armed all the Medes who had remained
in the city, both young and old; and leading them against the
Persians, fought a battle, in which he was utterly defeated, his
army being destroyed, and he himself falling into the enemy's hands.
Harpagus then, seeing him a prisoner, came near, and exulted
over him with many jibes and jeers. Among other cutting speeches which
he made, he alluded to the supper where the flesh of his son was given
him to eat, and asked Astyages to answer him now, how he enjoyed being
a slave instead of a king? Astyages looked in his face, and asked
him in return, why he claimed as his own the achievements of Cyrus?
"Because," said Harpagus, "it was my letter which made him revolt, and
so I am entitled to all the credit of the enterprise." Then Astyages
declared that "in that case he was at once the silliest and the most
unjust of men: the silliest, if when it was in his power to put the
crown on his own head, as it must assuredly have been, if the revolt
was entirely his doing, he had placed it on the head of another; the
most unjust, if on account of that supper he had brought slavery on
the Medes. For, supposing that he was obliged to invest another with
the kingly power, and not retain it himself, yet justice required that
a Mede, rather than a Persian, should receive the dignity. Now,
however, the Medes, who had been no parties to the wrong of which he
complained, were made slaves instead of lords, and slaves moreover
of those who till recently had been their subjects."
Thus after a reign of thirty-five years, Astyages lost his

Previous | Next
Site Search