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a 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 confident, to declare to him what his Persian subjects thought and said of him. They admire, Sir," says Prexaspes, "a great many excel"lent qualities which they see in you, but they are some"what 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; Sceleratius telum illud laudatum est, quam missum.
When Croesus took upon him to advise Cambyses against these proceedings, and laid before him the ill consequences they would lead to, he ordered him to be put to death. And, when those who received his orders, knowing he would repent of it the next day, deferred the execution, he caused them all to be put to death, because they had not obeyed his commands, though at the same time he expressed great joy that Croesus was alive.
It was about this time, that Oretes, one of Cambyses's Satrape, 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 perfectly prosperous and successful in all his affairs, and had never met with the least
a Herod 1. iii. c. 34, 35. Sen. 1. iii. de Ira, c. 14, b Ibid. 1. iii. c. 36.
c lbid. c. 39-43.
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. In this letter he declared to him, that he had terrible 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 mightily 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 writ 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.
a 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; Oretes 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 feigned an inclination upon some pretended discontent, to revolt from Cambyses; but must first take care, he said, how to secure his treasure 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 thing he had long had in view. Oretes knew the tyrant loved money, and passionately coveted to enlarge his dominions. He therefore laid
a Herod. 1. iii. c. 120–175.
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. When he came there, they showed him a vast number of bags full of gold, as he thought, but in truth filled with stones, and having only the mouth of them covered over with gold. As soon as he was returned home, Polycrates, impatient to go and seize 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. Immediately 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 an herald there, sent from Susa to the army, to let them know, that Smerdis, the son of Cyrus, was 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 adminstration 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 was 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 dispatched 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, 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 march and cut off the usurper. But, as he was mounting his horse
a Herod. 1. iii c 61.
b Ibid. 1. iii. 62-61.
for this expedition, his sword slipped out of its scabbard, and gave him a wound in the thigh, of which he died soon after. The Egyptians remarking, that it was in the same part of the body where he had wounded their god Apis, reckoned it a judgment upon him for that sacrilegious impiety.
a While he was in Egypt, having consulted the oracle of Butus, which was famous in that country, he was told, that he should die at Ecbatana; which understanding 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 out of hatred to his brother, paid no regard to it; but upon his death quietly submitted to him whom they found on the throne, supposing him to be the true Smerdis.
Cambyses reigned seven years and five months. 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 openly revoke the edict of his father Cyrus, perhaps out of some remains of respect for his father's 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.
HIS prince is called in Scripture Artaxerxes. As
THIS soon as he was settled on the throne by the death of
Cambyses, the inhabitants of Samaria wrote a letter to him, setting forth what a turbulent, seditious, and rebellious people the Jews were. By virtue of this letter they obtain
a Herod. 1. iii. c. 64-66.
€ A. M. 3482. Ant. J. C. 522
b Ezra iv. 4, 6.
d Ezra iv. 7-14.
ed 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, according to the custom of the eastern monarchs in those times, never to appear in public, but to live retired in his palace, and there transact all his affairs by the intercourse of his eunuchs, without admitting any but his most imtimate confidents 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 the generality of 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 people, 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. Wereupon she informed him, that the present king kept all his wives apart, so that they never could converse with one another, and that therefore she could not come at Atossa 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 no: 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 had ears, she might satisfy herself, that he was Smerdis the son of Cyrus; but if not, he was Smerdis the Magian, and therefore 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 that the person she lay with had no ears, she sent
b Ibid. c. 69.
a Herod. l. iii, c. 67.