Page images
PDF
EPUB

The Athenians, those excellent judges of true glory, erected a noble statue to this learned and ingenious slave; to let all the people know, says Phædrus,* that the ways of honour were open indifferently to all mankind, and that it was not to birth, but merit, they paid so honourable a distinction.

Æsopo ingentem statuam posuere Attici, Servumque collocarunt veternâ in basi, Patere honoris scirent ut cuncti viam, Nec gegeri tribui, sed vertuti gloriam.

* Herod. lib. i. cap. 134

BOOK VI.

THE

HISTORY

OF THE

PERSIANS AND GRECIANS.

CHAPTER I.

THE HISTORY OF DARIUS, INTERMIXED WITH THAT OF

THE GREEKS.

BEFORE Darius came to be king,* he was called Ochus. At his succession he took the name of Darius, which, according to Herodotus, in the Persian language signifies an avenger, or a man that defeats the schemes of another; probably because he had punished and put an end to the insolence of the Magian impostor. He reigned thirty-six years.

SECTION J. Darius's marriages. The imposition of tributes. The insolence and punishment of In

taphernes. The death of Oretes. The story of Democedes, a physician. The Jews permitted to carry on the building of their temple. The generosity of Šyloson rewarded.

Before Darius was elected king he had married the daughter of Gobryas, whose name is not known. Artabarzanes, the eldest of the three sons whom he had by her, afterwards disputed the empire with Xerxes. A. M. 3483. When Darius was seated on the throne,t the better Ant. J. C. 521.

to secure himself therein, he married two of Cyrus's daughters, Atossa, and Artistona. The former had been wife to Cambyses, her own brother, and afterwards to Smerdis the Magian, during the time he possessed the throne. Artistona was still a virgin when Darius married her; and of all his wives was the person he most loved. He likewise married Parmys, daughter of the true Smerdis, who was Cambyses's brother, as also Phedyma, daughter to Otanes, by whose management the imposture of the Magian was discovered By these wives he had a great number of children of both sexes.

* Herod. I. vi. C. 98 Val. Max. I. ix. c. 2. | Herod. l. jil, a. 8

We have already seen, that the seven conspirators who put the Magian to death, had agreed among themselves, that he whose horse, on a day appointed, first neighed, at the rising of the sun, should be declared king; and that Darius's horse, by an artifice of his groom, procured his master that honour. The king, * desiring to transmit to future ages his gratitude for this signal service, caused an equestrian statue to be set up, with this inscription : Darius, the son of Hystaspes, acquired the kingdom of Persia by means of his horse (whose name was inserted,) and of his groom, Oebares. There is in this inscription, in which we see the king is not ashamed to own himself indebted to his horse and his groom for so transcendant a benefaction as the regal diadem, when it was his interest, one would think, to have it considered as the fruits of a superior merit; there is, I say, in this inscription, a simplicity and sincerity strikingly characteristic of those ancient times, and extremely remote from the pride and vanity of our own.

One of the first cares of Darius,f when he was settled on the throne, was to regulate the state of the provinces, and to put his finances into good order. Before his time, Cyrus and Cambyses had contented themselves with receiving from the conquered nations such free gifts only as they voluntarily offered, and with requiring a certain number of troops when they had occasion for them. But Darius perceived that it was impossible for him to preserve all the nations subject to him in peace and security, without keeping up regular forces; and equally impossible to maintain these forces, without assigning them a certain pay; or to be able punctually to gtve them that pay, without laying taxes and impositions upon the people.

In order therefore the better to regulate the administration of his finances, he divided the whole empire into twenty districts or governments, each of which was annually to pay a certain sum to the satrap appointed for that purpose. The natural subjects, that is, the Persians, were exempt from all imposts. Herodotus gives an exact enumeration of these provinces, which may very much contribute to give us a just idea of the extent of the Persian empire.

In Asia it comprehended all that now belongs to the Persians and Turks; in Africa, it took in Egypt and part of Nubia, as also the coast of the Mediterranean as far as the kingdom of Barca; in Europe, part of Thrace and Macedonia. But it must be observed, that in this vast extent of country, there were several nations which were only tributary, and not properly subjects to Persia; as is the case at this day with respect to the Turkish empire.

* Herod. l. iii. c. 88

| Ibid. c. 89-97.

such sums,

History observes,* that Darius, in imposing these tributes, showed great wisdom and moderation. He sent for the principal inhabitants, of every province; such as were best acquainted with the condition and ability of their country, and were interested in giving bin a true and impartial account. He then asked them, if such and

which he proposed to each of them for their respective provinces, were not too great, or did not exceed what they were able to pay; his intention being, as he told them, not to oppress hie subjects, but only to require such aids from them as were proportioned to their incomes, and absolutely necessary for the defence of the state. They all answered, that the sums he proposed were very reasonable, and such as would not be burdensome to the people. The king, however, was pleased to abate one half, choosing rather to keep a great deal within bounds, than to risk a possibility of exceeding them.

But notwithstanding this extraordinary moderation on the king's part, as there is something odious in all imposts, the Persians, who had given the surname of Father to Cyrus, and of master to Cambyses, thought fit to characterize Darius by that of Merchant.t

The several sums levied by the imposition of these tributes or taxes, as far as we can infer from the calculation of Herodotus, which is attended with great difficulties, amounted in the whole to about 44,000,000 per annum French, or something less than 2,000,000 English money.

After the death of the Magian impostor,f it was agreed, that the Persian noblemen who had conspired against him, should, besides several other marks of distinction, have the liberty of free access to the king's presence at all times, except when he was alone with the queen. Intaphernes, one of those noblemen, being refused admittance into the king's apartment at a time when the king and queen were in private together, in a violent rage attacked the officers of the palace, abused them outrageously, cutting their faces with his scymitar. Darius highly resented so heinous an insult ; and at first apprehended it might be a conspiracy amongst the noble

But when he was well assured of the contrary, he caused Intaphernes, with bis children, and all that were of his family, to be seized, and had them all condemned to death, confounding through a blind excess of severity, the innocent with the guilty. In these unhappy circumstances, the wife of the criminal went every day to the gates of the palace, crying and weeping in the most lamentable manner, and never ceasing to implore the king's clemency with all the pathetic eloquence of sorrow and distress. The king could not resist so moving a spectacle, and besides her own, granted her the pardon of any one of her family whom she should choose. This gave the unhappy lady great perplexity, who desired, no doubt, to save them all. At last, after a long deliberation, she determined in favour of her brother.

men.

* Plut. in Apophthegm. p. 172.

† Kánnaos signifies something still more mean and contemptible ; but I do not know how to express it in our language. It may signify a broker or a retailer, any one that buys to sell again.

Herod. l. iii. c. 118, 119.

This choice, wherein she seemed not to have followed the senti. ments which nature should dictate to a mother and a wife, surprised the king; and when he desired she might be asked the reason of it, she made answer, that by a second marriage the loss of a husband and children might be retrieved; but that her father and mother being dead, there was no possibility of recovering a brother. Darius, besides the life of her brother, granted her the same favour for the eldest of her children.

I have already related, in this volume,* by what an instance of perfidiousness Oretes, one of the king's governors in Asia Minor, brought about the death of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos. Šo black and detestable a crime did not go unpunished. Darius found out, that Oretes strangely abused his power, making no account of the blood of those persons who had the misfortune to displease him. This satrap carried his insolence so far, as to put to death a messenger sent him by the king, because the orders he had brought him were disagreeable. Darius, who did not yet think himself well settled in the throne, would not venture to attack him openly; for the satrap had no less than 1000 soldiers for his guard, not to mention the soldiers he was able to raise from his government, which included Phrygia, Lydia, and Ionia. The king therefore thought fit to proceed in a secret manner to rid himself of so dangerous a servant. With this commission he intrusted one of his officers, of approved fidelity, and attachment to his person. The officer, under pretence of other business, went to Sardis, where, with great dexterity, he sounded the dispositions of the people. To pave the way to his de. sign, he first gave the principal officers of the governor's guard letters from the king, which contained nothing but general orders. A little while after he delivered them other letters, in which their orders were more express and particular. And as soon he found himself perfectly sure of the disposition of the troops, he then read them a third letter, wherein the king in plain terms commanded them to put the governor to death; and this order was executed without delay. All his effects were confiscated to the king; and all the persons belonging to his family and household were removed to Susa. Among the rest there was a celebrated physician of Crotona, whose name was Democedes. This physician's story is very singular, and happened to be the occasion of some considerable events.

Not long after the forementioned transaction,t Darius chanced to have a fall from his horse in hunting, by which he wrenched one

• Herod. l. iii. c. 120. 128.

† Ibid. 129,130.

« PreviousContinue »