« PreviousContinue »
her he gave the name of Meroe to an island in the Nile, between Egypt and Ethiopia, so far he advanced in his wild march against the Ethiopians. The circunıstance that gave occasion to his murdering this princess was as follows. One day Cambyses was diverting himself in seeing a combat between a young lion and a young dog; the lion having the better, another dog, brother to him that was engaged, came to his assistance, and helped him to master the lion. This incident highly delighted Cambyses, but drew tears from Meroe, who being obliged to tell her husband the reason or ner weeping, confessed, that this combat made her call to mind the fate of her brother Smerdis, who had not the same good fortune as that little dog. There needed no more than this to excite the rage of this brutal prince, who immediately gave her, notwithstanding her being with child, such a blow with his foot on the belly, that she died of it. So abominable a marriage deserved no better an end.
He caused also several of the principal of his followers to be buried alive,* and daily sacrificed some or other of them to his wild fury. He had obliged Prexaspes, one of his principal officers and his chief confidant, to declare to him what his Persian subjects thought and said of him. They admire, Sir, says Prexaspes, a great many excellent qualities which they see in you, but they are somewhat mortified at your immoderate love of wine.--I understand you, replied the king; that is, they pretend that wine deprives me of my reason. You shall be judge of that immediately. Upon which he began to drink excessively, pouring it down in larger quantities than ever he had done at any time before. Then ordering Prexaspes's son, who was his chief cup-bearer, to stand upright at the end of the room, with his left hand upon his head, he took his bow, and levelled it at him; and declaring that he aimed at his heart, let fly, and actually shot him in the heart. He then ordered his side to be opened, and showing Prexaspes the heart of his son, which the arrow had pierced, asked him in an exulting and scoffing manner, if he had not a steady hand? The wretched father, who ought not to have had either voice or life remaining after a stroke like this, was so mean-spirited as to reply, Apollo himself could not have shot better.
Seneca who copied this story from Herodotus, after having shown his detestation of the barbarous cruelty of the prince, condemns still more the cowardly and monstrous flattery of the father : Sceleratiùs telum illud laudatum est, quàm missum.
When Cræsus took upon him to advise Cambyses against his conduct, which disgusted every one, and laid before him the ill consequences that might result from it, he ordered him to be put to death.† And when those who received his orders, ki.owing he would repent of it the next day, deferred the execution, he caused them ail to be put to death, because they had not obeyed his com
* Herod. I. ii. c. 34, 35. Sen. l. iii. de Ira. c. 14
† Herod. 1. üi c. 36.
mands, though at the same time he expressed great joy that Creesus was alive.
It was about this time that Oretes, one of Cambyses's satrapæ, who had the government of Sardis, after a very strange and extraordinary manner brought about the death of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos. The story of this Polycrates is of so singular a nature, that the
reader will not be displeased if I repeat it here. This Polycrates was a prince,* who through the whole course of his life had been uniformly prosperous and successful in all his affairs, and had never met with the least disappointment or unfortunate accident to disturb his felicity. Amasis king of Egypt, his friend and ally, thought himself obliged to send him a letter of admonition upon that subject. He declared to him, that he had alarming apprehensions concerning his condition; that such a long and uninterrupted course of prosperity was to be suspected; that some malignant, invidious god, who looks upon the fortune of men with a jealous eye, would certainly sooner or later bring ruin and destruction upon him; that, in order to prevent such a fatal stroke, he advised him to procure some misfortune to himself, by some voluntary loss, that he was persuaded would prove a sensible mortification to him.
The tyrant followed this advice. Having an emerald ring, which he higły esteemed, particularly for its curious workmanship, as he was walking upon the deck of one of his galleys with his courtiers, he threw it into the sea without any one's perceiving what he had done. Not many days after, some fishermen, having caught a fish of an extraordinary size, made a present of it to Polycrates. When the fish came to be opened, the king's ring was found in the belly of it. His surprise was very great, and his joy still greater.
When Amasis heard what had happened, he was very differently affected with it. He wrote another letter to Polycrates, telling him that, to avoid the mortification of seeing his friend and ally fall into some grievous calamity, he from that time renounced his friendship and alliance. A strange whimsical notion this! as if friendship was merely a name, or a title, destitute of all substance and reality.
Be that as it will, the thing, however, did really happen as the Egyptian king apprehended.Some years after, about the time Cambyses fell sick, Oretes, who, as I said before, was his governor at Sardis, not being able to bear the reproach which another satrap had made him in a private quarrel, of his not having yet conquered the Isle of Samos, which lay so near his government, and would be so commodious for his master; upon this resolved at any rate to destroy Polycrates, that he might get possession of the island. The way he took to effect his design was this. He wrote to Polycrates that, in consequence of information upon which he could depend, Cambyses intended to destroy him by assassinatio .,
* Herod. l. jii. c 3943.
| Ibid. 120-125
he designed to withdraw to Samos, and there to secure his treas. re and effects; for which end he was determined to deposit them in the hands of Polycrates, and at the same time make him a present of one half of it, which would enable him to conquer Ionia and the adjacent islands, a project he had long had in view. Oretes knew the tyrant oved money, and passionately coveted to enlarge his dominions. He therefore laid that double bait before him, by which he equally tempted his avarice and ambition. Polycrates, that he might not rashly engage in an affair of that importance, thought it proper to inform himself more surely of the truth of the matter, and to that end sent a messenger of his own to Sardis. Oretes had caused eight large chests to be filled with stones almost to the top, but had covered the stones with pieces of gold coin. These chests were packed up, and appeared ready to be sent on board ship: but they were opened before the messenger, on his arrival, and he supposed that they were filled with gold. As soon as he was returned home, Polycrates, impatient to go and seizé his prey, set out for Sardis, contrary to the advice of all his friends; and took along with him Democedes, a celebrated physician of Crotona. Inimediately on his arrival, Oretes had him arrested, as an enemy to the state, and as such caused him to be hanged; in such an ignominious and shameful manner did he end a life which had been but one continued series of prosperity and good fortune.
Cambyses,* in the beginning of the eighth year of his reign, left Egypt, in order to return into Persia. When he came into Syria, he found a herald there, sent from Susa to the army to let them know that Smerdis, the son of Cyrus, had been proclaimed king, and to command them all to obey him.' This event had been brought about in the following manner: Cambyses, at his departure from Susa on his Egyptian expedition, had left the administration of affairs during his absence in the hands of Patisithes, one of the chief of the Magi. This Patisithes had a brother extremely like Smerdis, the son of Cyrus, and who perhaps for that reason was called by the same name. As soon as Patisithes was fully assured of the death of that prince, which had been concealed from the public, knowing, at the same time, that Cambyses indulged his extravagance to such a degree that he was grown insupportable, he placed his own brother upon the throne, giving out that he was the true Smerdis, the son of Cyrus; and immediately despatched heralds into all parts of the empire, to give notice of Smerdis's accession, and to require all the subjects thereof to pay him their obedience.
Cambyses caused the herald,t that came with these orders into Syria, to be arrested; and having strictly examined him in the presence of Prexaspes, who had received orders to kill his brother, he found that the true Smerdis was certainly dead, and he who had usurped the throne, was no other than Smerdis the Magian. Upon this he made great lamentations, that being deceived by a dream, and the identity of the names, he had been induced to destroy his own brother; and immediately gave orders for his army to narch, and cut off the usurper. But, as he was mounting bis horse for this expedition, his sword slipped out of his scabbard, and gave him a wound in his thigh, of which he died soon after. The Egyptians remarking that it was the same part of the body where he had wounded their god Apis, considered this accident as a just judgment from Heaven, which thus avenged the sacrilegious impiety of Cam. byses.
* Herod. 1. iii. c. 61
† Ibid, c. 62–64.
While he was in Egypt,* having consulted the oracle of Butos, which was famous in that country, he was told that he should die at Ecbatana : understanding this of Ecbatana in Media, he resolved to preserve his life by never going thither; but what he thought to avoid in Media, he found in Syria. For the town where he lay sick of this wound, was of the same name, being also called Ecbatana. Of which when he was informed, taking it for certain that he must die there, he assembled all the chief of the Persians together, and representing to them the true state of the case, that it was Smerdis the Magian who had usurped the throne, earnestly exhorted them not to submit to that impostor, nor to suffer the sovereignty to pass from the Persians again to the Medes, of which nation the Magian was, but to take care to set up a king over them of their own people. The Persians, thinking that he said all this merely out of hatred to his brother, paid no regard to it; but upon his death quietly submitted to him whom they found upon the throne, supposing him to be the true Smerdis.
Cambyses reigned seven years and five months.t. In Scripture he is called Ahasuerus. When he first came to the crown, the enemies of the Jews made an application directly to him, desiring him to hinder the building of the temple; and their application was not in vain. Indeed, he did not revoke the edict of his father Cy. rus, perhaps out of some remains of respect for his memory, but in a great measure frustrated its intent, by the many discouragements under which he laid the Jews; so that the work went on very slowly during his reign.
THE HISTORY OF SMERDIS THE MAGIAN.
This prince is called in Scripture Artaxerxes. He Ant. J. C. 522. reigned little more than seven months. As soon as he was set upon the throne, by the death of Cambyses, the inhabitants of Samarfa wrote a letter to him, setting forth what a turbulent
A. M. 3482.
* Herod. I. ij. c. 64-66.
| Ezra, iv 4.6.
Beditious, and rebellious people the Jews were. By virtue of this letter they obtained an order from the king, prohibiting the Jews from proceeding any farther in the rebuilding of their city and temple. So that the work was suspended till the second year of Darius, for about the space of two years.
The Magian, sensible how important it was for him, that the imposture should not be discovered, affected, from the very beginning of his reign, never to appear in public, but to live retired in his palace, and there transact all his affairs by the intervention of his eunuchs, without aamitting any but his most intimate confidants to his presence.
And,* the better to secure himself in the possession of the throne he had usurped, he studied from his first accession to gain the affections of his subjects, by granting them an exemption from taxes, and from all military service for three years; and did so many things for their benefit, that his death was much lamented by most of the nations of Asia, except the Persians, on the revolution that happened soon afterwards.
But these very precautions which he made use of to keep himself out of the way of being discovered either by the nobility or the peoplet did but make it the more suspected that he was not the true Smerdis. He had married all his predecessor's wives, and among the rest Atossa, a daughter of Cyrus, and Phedyma, a daughter of Otanes, a noble Persian of the first quality. This nobleman sent a trusty messenger to his daughter, to know of her, whether the king was really Smerdis, the son of Cyrus, or some other man. She answered that, having never seen Smerdis, the son of Cyrus, she could not tell. He then by a second message desired her to inquire of Atossa (who could not but know her own brother,) whether this were he or not. Whereupon she informed him that the present king, be he who he might, from the first day of his accession to the throne, had lodged his wives in separate apartments, so that they never could converse with one another, and that therefore she could not come at Alossa, to ask this question of her. He sent her a third message, whereby he directed her, that when he should next lie with her, she should take the opportunity, when he was fast asleep, to feel whether he had any ears or not: for Cyrus having caused the ears of Smerdis, the Magian, to be cut off for some crime, he told her, that if the person she lay with was Smerdis, the Magian, he was unworthy of possessing either the crown or her. Phedyma, having received these instructions, took the next opportunity of making the trial she was directed to, and finding the person she lay with had no ears, she sent word to her father of it, whereby the whole fraud was discovered.
Otanes immediately entered into a conspiracy with five more of the chief Persian nobility;f and Darius ap -"lustrious Persian noble
. llorod. I. iii. c. 67.
Ibid. c. 69.
Horod. I. iii. c. 70-73.