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It was by the concurrence of all these virtues that Cyrus succeed ed in founding such an extensive empire in so short a time; that he peaceably enjoyed the fruits of his conquests for many years ; that he made himself so much esteemed and beloved, not only by his own natural subjects, but by all the nations he had conquered ; that after his death he was universally regretted as the common father of all the people.
We ought not to be surprised, that Cyrus was so accomplished in every virtue (it will easily be understood, that I speak only of pagan virtues,) because we know it was God himself, who had formed him to be the instrument and agent of his gracious designs towards his peculiar people.
When I say that God himself had formed this prince, I do not mean that he did it by any sensible miracle, nor that he immediately made him such, as we admire him in the accounts we have of him in his. tory. God gave him a happy disposition, and implanted in his mind the seeds of all the noblest qualities, disposing his heart, at the same time, to aspire after the most excellent and sublime virtues. But, above all, he took care, that this happy genius should be cultivated by a good education, and by that means be prepared for the great designs for which he intended him. We may venture to say, without fear of being mistaken, that the greatest excellences in Cyrus were owing to the mode in which he was educated, which confounding him, in some sort, with the rest of the subjects, and keeping him under the same subjection to the authority of his teachers, served to eradicate that pride, which is so natural to princes; taught him to hearken to advice, and to obey before he cance to command; inured him to hardship and toil; accustomed him to temperance and sobriety; and, in a word, rendered him such as we Save seen him throughout his whole conduct, gentle, modest, affable, obliging, compassionate, an enemy to all luxury and pride, and still more so to flattery.
It must be confessed, that such a prince is one of the most precious and valuable gifts that Heaven can make to mortal men. The infidels themselves have acknowledged this; nor has the darkness of their false religion been able to hide these two remarkable truths from their observation: That all good kings are the gift of God alone, and that such a gift includes many others; for nothing can be so excellent as that which bears the most perfect resemblance to the Deity; and the noblest image of the Deity is a just, moderate, chaste, and virtuous pri..ce, who reigns with no other view than to establish the reign of justice and virtue. This is the portrait which Pliny has left us of Trajan, and which has a great resemblance to that of Cyrus. Nullum est præstabilius et pulchrius Dei munus erga mor. tales quàm castus, et sanctus, et Deo simillimus, princeps.*
When I narrowly examine this hero's life, there seems to me to
· Paneg. Traj.
have been one circumstance wanting to his glory, which would have enhanced it exceedingly, I mean that of having struggled under some grievous calamity for some time, and of having his virtue tried by some sudden reverse of fortune. I know, indeed, that the emperor Galba, when he adopted Piso, told him that the stings of prosperity were infinitely sharper than those of adversity; and that the former put the soul to a much severer trial than the latter: Fortunam adhuc tantum adversam tulisti ;* secundo res acrioribus stimulis explorant animos. And the reason he gives is, that when misfortunes come with their whole weight upon the soul, she exerts herself, and summons all her strength to bear up against the burden; whereas prosperity, attacking the mind secretly or insensibly, leaves it all its weakness, and insinuates a poison into it, by so much the more dangerous, as it is the more subtle : Quia miseric tolerantur, felicitate corrumpimur.
However, it must be owned that adversity, when supported with nobleness and dignity, and surmounted by an invincible patience, adds a great lustre to a prince's glory, and gives him occasion to display many fine qualities and virtues, which would have been concealed in the bosom of prosperity; a greatness of mind, independent of every thing without; an unshaken constancy, proof against the severest strokes of fortune; an intrepidity of soul which is animated at the sight of danger; a fruitfulness in expedients, improving even from crosses and disappointments; a presence of mind, which views and provides against every thing; and, lastly, a firmness of soul, that not only suffices to itself, but is capable of supporting others.
Cyrus wanted this kind of glory. He himself informs us,f that during the whole course of his life, which was pretty long, the happiness of it was never interrupted by any unfortunate accident; and that in all his designs the success had answered his utmost expectation. But he acquaints us, at the same time, with another thing almost incredible, and which was the source of all that moderation and evenness of temper so conspicuous in him, and for which he can never be sufficiently admired; namely, that in the midst of his uninterrupted prosperity he still preserved in his heart a secret fear, proceeding from the apprehension of the changes and misfor. tunes that might happen; and this prudent fear was not only a preservative against insolence, but even against intemperate joy.I
There remains one point more to be examined, of great importance in appreciating this prince's reputation and character, upon which however I shall touch but slightly; I mean the nature of his victories and conquests: for if these were founded only upon ambition, injustice, and violence, Cyrus would be so far from meriting the praises bestowed upon him, that he would deserve to be ranked only among those famous robbers of the universe, those public enemies to man
* Tac. Hist. lib. i. c. 15. t Cyrop. I. viii. p. 234. και Θύκ εία μέγα φρονείν, ουδ' ευφραίνεσθαι εκπεπταμένως,
kind,* who acknowledged no right but that of force; who looked upon the common rules of justice as laws which only private persons were obliged to observe, and derogatory to the majesty of kings; who set no other bounds to their designs and pretensions, than their incapacity of carrying them to an equal extent with their wishes ; who sacrificed the lives of millions to their particular ambition; who made their glory consist in spreading desolation and destruction, like an inundation or a conflagration: and who reigned as bears and lions would do, if they were masters.
This is indeed the true character of the greatest part of those pre tended heroes, whom the world admires; and by such ideas as these we ought to correct the impression made upon our minds by the un due praises of some historians, and the sentiments of many deceived by false images of grandeur.
I do not know, whether I am not biassed in favour of Cyrus; but he seems to me to have been of a very different character from those conquerors, whom I have just now described. Not that I would justify Cyrus in every respect, or represent him as exempt from ambition, which undoubtedly was the soul of all his undertakings; but he certainly reverenced the laws, and knew that there are unjust wars, in which whoever unseasonably engages, renders himself accountable for all the blood that is shed. Now every war is of this sort, to which the prince is induced by no other motive than that of enlarg. ing his conquests, of acquiring a vain reputation, or rendering himself terrible to his neighbours.
Cyrus,f as we have seen, at the beginning of the war founded all his hopes of success on the justice of his cause, and represented to his soldiers, in order to inspire them with the greater courage and confidence, that they were not the aggressors; that it was the enemy that attacked them; and that therefore they were entitled to the protection of the gods, who seemed themselves to have put arms into their hands, that they might fight in defence of their friends and allies, unjustly oppressed. If we carefully examine Cyrus's conquests, we shall find that they were all consequences of the victories he obtained over Cresus, king of Lydia, who was master of the greatest part of the Lesser Asia; and over the king of Babylon, who was master of all Upper Asia, and many other countries; both which princes were the aggressors.
With good reason therefore is Cyrus represented as one of the greatest princes recorded in history; and his reign justly proposed as the model of a perfect government, which cannot be such, unless justice is the basis and foundation of it: Cyrus à Xenophonte scriplus ad justi effigiem imperii.g
* Id in summâ fortunâ æquius quod validius. Et sua retinere, privatæ domûs: do
Cyrop. I. i. p. 25.
Wherein Herodotus and Xenophon differ in their accounts of Cyrus Herodotus and Xenophon, who perfectly agree in what may be considered as the ground-work and most essential part of Cyrus's history, anı! particularly in what relates to his expedition against Babylon, and his other conquests; yet differ extremely in the accounts they give of several very important facts, as the birth and death of that prince, and the establishment of the Persian empire. I therefore think myself obliged to give a succinct account of what Herodotus relates as to these points.
He tells us, as Justin does after him,* that Astyages, king of the Medes, being warned by a frightful dream, that the son who was to be born of his daughter would dethrone him, did therefore marry his daughter Mandane to a Persian of obscure birth and fortune, whose name was Cambyses. This daughter being delivered of a son, the king commanded Harpagus, one of his principal officers, to destroy the infant. He, instead of killing the child, put it into the hands of one of the king's shepherds, and ordered him to leave it exposed in a forest. But the child, being miraculously preserved, and secretly brought up by the shepherd's wife, was afterwards recognized by his grandfather, who contented himself with banishing him to the most remote parts of Persia, and vented all his wrath upon the unfortunate Harpagus, whom he invited to a feast, and caused him to feed on the flesh of his own son. Several years after, young Cyrus, being informed by Harpagus who he was, and being encouraged by his counsels and remonstrances, raised an army in Persia, marched against Astyages, defeated him in a battle, and so transferred the empire from the Medes to the Persians.
The same Herodotus makes Cyrus die in a manner little becoming so great a conqueror.f. This prince, according to him, carried his arms against the Scythians; and, after having attacked them, in the first battle pretended to fly, leaving a great quantity of wine and provisions behind him in the field. The Scythians did not fail to seize the booty. When they had drunk largely, and were asleep, Cyrus returned upon them, and obtained an easy victory, taking a vast number of prisoners, amongst whom was the son of the queen, named Tomyris, who commanded the army. This young prince, whom Cyrus refused to restore to his mother, being recovered from his drunken fit, and not able to endure to see himself a prisoner, killed himself with his own hand. His mother Tomyris, animated with a desire of revenge, gave the Persians a second battle, and feigning a flight, as they had done before, by that means drew them into an ambush, and killed above 200,000 of their men, together with their king, Cyrus. Then ordering. Cyrus's head to be cut off, she flung it into a vessel full of blood, insulting him at the same time with these opprobrious words: Now glut thyself with blood, in which thou hast always delighted, and of which thy thirst has always been insatiable.*
* Herod 1. i. c. 107–130. Justin. l. i c. 4. 6. i, c. &
| Herod li. c. 205-214. Justin Justin.
The account given by Herodotus of Cyrus's infancy and first adventures, has much more the air of a romance than of a his y. And, as to the manner of his death, what probability is there, that a prince, so experienced in war, and no less renowned for his prudence than for his bravery, should so easily fall into an ambuscade laid by a woman for him? What the same historian relates concerning his impetuosity and passion, and his childish revenge upon the river, in which one of his sacred horses was drowned, and which he immediately caused to be cut by his army into 360 channels, is directly repugnant to the idea we have of Cyrus, whose distinguishing characteristic was mildness and moderation. Besides,y is it at all probable, that Cyrus, who was marching to the conquest of Babylon, should so idly waste his time when so precious to him, should spend the ardour of his troops in such an unprofitable work, and miss the opportunity of surprising the Babylonians, by amusing himself with a ridiculous war with a river, instead of carrying it against his enemies?
But, what decides this point unanswerably in favour of Xenophon, is the conformity we find between his narrative and the Holy Scripture; where we see that, instead of Cyrus's having raised the Persian empire upon the ruins of that of the Medes (as Herodotus relates,) those two nations attacked Babylon together, and united their forces, to reduce the formidable power of the Babylonian monarchy.
From whence, then, could so great a difference between these two historians proceed? Herodotus himself explains it to us. In the very place where he gives the accouut of Cyrus's birth, and in that where he speaks of his death, he acquaints us that, even at that time, those two great events were related different ways. Herodotus followed that which pleased him best, for it appears that he was fond of extraordinary and wonderful things, and readily gave credit to them. Xenophon was of a graver disposition, and less credulous • and in the very beginning of his history acquaints us, that he had taken great care and pains to inform himself of Cyrus's birth, education and character.
* Satia te, inquit, sanguine, quem sitîsti, cujusque insatiabilis semper fuisti.