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to tell him whatever they thought. And though he was much superior to all his officers in understanding, yet he never undertook any thing, without asking their advice: and whatever was to be done, whether it was to reform any thing in the government, to make changes in the army, or to form a new enterprise, he would always have every man speak his sentiments, and would often make use of them to correct his own: so different was he from the person mentioned by Tacitus, a who thought it a sufficient reason for rejecting the most excellent project or advice, that it did not proceed from himself: consilii, quamvis egregii, quod ipse non afferret, inimicus.
Cicero observes, that during the whole time of Cyrus's government he was never heard to speak one rough or angry word: cujus summo in imperio nemo unquam verbum ullum asperius audivit. What a great encomium for a prince is comprehended in that short sentence! Cyrus must have been a very great master of himself, to be able, in the midst of so much agitation, and in spite of all the intoxicating effects of sovereign power, always to preserve his mind in such a state of calmness and composure, as that no crosses, disappointments, or unforeseen accidents should ever ruffle its tranquillity, or provoke him to utter any harsh or offensive expression.
But, what was still greater in him, and more truly royal than all this, was his stedfast persuasion, that all his labours and endeavours ought to tend to the happiness of his people; c and that it was not by the splendour of riches, by pompous equipages, luxurious living, or a magnificent table, that a king ought to distinguish himself from his subjects, but by a superiority of merit in every kind, and particularly by a constant indefatigable care and vigilance to promote their interests, and secure the public welfare and tranquillity. He said himself one day, as he was discoursing with his courtiers upon the duties of a king, that a prince ought to consider himself as a shepherde; (the image under which both sacred and profane antiquity represented good kings) and that he ought to have the same vigilance, care, and goodness. It is his "duty," says he, "to watch that his people may live in safety "and quiet; to burden himself with anxieties and cares, that
they may be exempt from them; to choose whatever "is salutary for them, and remove what is hurtful and preju"dicial; to place his delight in seeing them increase and multiply, and valiantly expose his own person in their defence
a Hist. l. i. c. 26.
c Cyrop. 1 i. p. 27.
e "Thou shalt feed my people," Hive Aalov, Homer, in many places.
b Lib. i. Epist. 2. ad Q. fratrem.
d Cyrop. l. viii. p. 210.
God to David. 2 Sam. v. 2.
"and protection. This," says he, "is the natural idea, and "the just image of a good king. It is reasonable at the same "time, that his subjects should render him all the service he "stands in need of; but it is still more reasonable, that he "should labour to make them happy; because it is for that very end that he is their king, as much as it is the end and "office of a shepherd to take care of his flock."
Indeed, to be the commonwealth's guardian, and to be king; to be for the people, and to be their sovereign, is but one and the same thing. A man is born for others, when he is born to govern, because the reason and end of governing others is only to be useful and serviceable to them The very basis and foundation of the condition of princes is, not to be for themselves; the very character of their greatness is, that they are consecrated to the public good. They may properly be considered as light, which is placed on high only to diffuse and shed its beams on every thing below. Are such sentiments as these any disparagement to the dignity of the regal state?
It was by the concurrence of all these virtues that Cyrus succeeded in founding such an extensive empire in so short a time; that he peaceably enjoyed the fruits of his conquests for several 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 history. 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 excellencies. in Cyrus were owing to his education; where the confounding him, in some sort, with the rest of the subjects, and the 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 came to command; inured him to hardship and toil; accustomed him to temperance and sobriety; and, in a word, rendered him such as we have 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, 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 prince, who reigns with no other view, than to establish the reign of justice and virtue. This is the portraiture which Pliny has left us of Trajan, and which has a great resemblance to that of Cyrus. a Nullum est præstabilius et pulcrius Dei munus erga mortales, quum castus, et sanctus, et Deo simillimus princeps.
When I narrowly examine this hero's life, methinks there seems to 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 ; secunda res acrioribus stimulis explorant animos. And the reason he gives, is, that when misfortunes come with their whole weight upon a man's 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 miseria 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; as a greatness of mind independent of every thing without; an unshaken constancy, proof against the severest
a Paneg. Traj.
6 Tac Hist, 1. i. c. 15.
strokes of fortune; an intrepidity of soul 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, 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 sacred fear, proceeding from the apprehension of the changes and misfortunes that might happen: and this prudent fear was not only a preservative against insolence, but even against intemperate joy.
There remains one point more to be examined, with regard to this prince's reputation and character; I mean the nature of his victories and conquests, upon which I shall touch but lightly. 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 mankind, 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 fires and torrents; 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 pretended heroes whom the world admires; and by such ideas as these we ought to correct the impression made upon our minds by the undue praises of some historians, and the sentiments of many deceived by false images of greatness.
I do not know, whether I am not biassed in favour of Cy
a Cyrop. I. viii. p. 234.
ὁ Ουκ εἴα μέγα φρονεῖν, ἐδ' εὐφραίνεσθαι ἐκπεπταμένως.
c Id in summa fortuna æquius quod validius. Et sua retinere, privatæ domus: de alienis certare, regiam laudem esse. Tacit Annal 1. xv. c. 1.
d Que alia vita esset, si leones ursique regnarent? Sen, de Clem. t. i. c. 26.
rus; 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, which whoever undertakes without a just foundation, 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 enlarging his conquests, of acquiring a vain reputation, or rendering himself terrible to his neighbours.
a Cyrus, 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 Croesus, 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 aggres
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 it could not be, unless justice had been the basis and foundation of it: Cyrus a Xenophonte scriptus ad justi effigiem imperii b.
Wherein Herodotus and Xenophon differ in their Accounts of Cyrus.
Herodotus and Xenophon, who perfectly agree in the substance and most essential part of Cyrus's history, and 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. Cic. 1. i. Epist i. ad Q. fratrem.
Cyrop. 1 i. p. 25.