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tribute to that end. A purple robe, richly embroidered, and hanging down to their feet, a tiara, worn upright on their heads, and encircled with an imperial diadem, a golden sceptre in their hands, a magnificent throne, a numerous and splendid court, a multitude of officers and guards; these things must needs conduce to heighten the splendour of royalty; but all this, when this is all, is of little or no value. What is that king in reality, who loses all his merit and his dignity, when he puts off his ornaments?
Some of the easternkings, to procure the greater reverence to their persons, generally kept themselves shut up in their palaces, and seldom showed themselves to their subjects. We have already seen, that Dejoces, the first king of the Medes, at his accession to the throne, introduced this policy, which afterwards became very common in all the eastern countries. But it is a great mistake to imagine, that a prince cannot descend from his grandeur, by a sort of familiarity, without debasing or lessening his greatness. Artaxerxes did not think so; and a Plutarch observes, that that prince, and queen Statira, his wife, took a pleasure in being visible and of easy access to their people; and by so doing were but the more respected.
Among the Persians no subject whatsoever was allowed to appear in the king's presence without prostrating himself before him: and this law, which Seneca with good reason calls a Persian slavery, Persicam servitutem, extended also to foreigners. We shall find afterwards, that several Grecians refused to comply with it, looking upon such a ceremony as derogatory to men born and bred in the bosom of liberty. Some of them, less scrupulous, did submit to it, but not without great reluctance; and we are told, that one of them, in order to cover the shame of such a servile prostration, purposely let fall his ring, when he came near the king, that he might have occasion to bend his body on another account. But it would have been criminal for any of the natives of the country to hesitate or' deliberate about an homage, which the kings exacted from them with the utmost rigour.
What the Scripture relates of two sovereigns, whereof the one commanded all his subjects, on pain of death, to prostrate themselves before his image; and the other, on the same penalty, suspended all acts of religion, with regard to all the gods in general, except to himself alone; and on the other hand, of the ready and blind obedience of the whole city of Babylon, who ran all together on the first signal to
a In Artax. p. 1013. b Lib. iii. de Benef. c. 12. et lib. iii. de Ira, c. 17. c Elian. I. i. Var. Histor. cap. xxi.
4 Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. iii. Darius the Mede, Dan. vi.
bend the knee before the idol, and to invoke the king exclusively of all the powers of heaven: all this shows to what an extravagant excess the eastern kings carried their pride, and the people their flattery and servitude.
So great was the distance between the Persian king and his subjects, that the latter, of what rank or quality soever, whether satrapæ, governors, near relations, or even brothers to the king, were only looked upon as slaves; whereas the king himself was always considered, not only as their sovereign lord and absolute master, but as a kind of divinity. " In a word, the peculiar character of the Asiatics, and of the Persians more particularly than any other, was servitude and slavery; which made Cicero say, that the despotic power which some were endeavouring to establish in the Roman commonwealth, was an insupportable yoke, not only to a Roman, but even to a Persian.
It was therefore this arrogant haughtiness of the princes on one hand, and this abject submisson of the people on the other, which according to Plato, were the principal causes of the ruin of the Persian empire, by dissolving all the ties wherewith a king is united to his subjects, and the subjects to their king. Such an haughtiness extinguishes all affection and humanity in the former; and such an abject state of slavery leaves the people neither courage, zeal, nor gratitude. The Persian kings governed only by threats and menaces, and their subjects neither obeyed nor marched, but with unwillingness and reluctance. This is the idea Xerxes himself gives us of them in Herodotus, where that prince is represented as wondering how the Grecians, who were a free people, could go to battle with a good will and inclination. How could any thing great or noble be expected from men so dispirited and depressed by habitual slavery as the Persians were, and reduced to such an abject servitude; which, to use the words of Longinus d, is a kind of imprisonment, wherein a man's soul may be said in some sort to grow little and contracted!
I am unwilling to say it, but I do not know, whether the great Cyrus himself did not contribute to introduce among the Persians, both that extravagant pride in their kings, and that abject submission and flattery in the people. It was in that pompous ceremony, which I have several times mentioned, that the Persians, till then very jealous of their liberty, and very far from being inclined to make a shameful prostitution of it by any mean behaviour, or servile compliances, first bent the knee before their prince, and stooped to a posture of adoration. Nor was this an affect of chance : a Plut. in Apoph th. p. 213.
Lib. in. de Leg. p. 697.
6 Lib. x. Epist. ad Attic.
for Xenophon intimates clearly enough, that Cyrus, a who desired to have that homage paid him, had appointed persons on purpose to begin it; whose example was accordingly followed by the multitude, and by the Persians as well as the other nations. In these little tricks and stratagems, we no longer discern that nobleness and greatness of soul which had ever been conspicuous in that prince till this occasion: and I should be apt to think, that being arrived at the utmost pitch of glory and power, he could no longer resist those violent attacks, wherewith prosperity is always assaulting even the best of princes, secundæ res sapientium animos fatigant; and that at last pride and vanity, which are almost inseparable from sovereign power, forced him, and in a manner tore him from himself and his own natural inclinations: Vi dominationis convulsus et mutatus.
The wrong Education of their Princes, another Cause of the Declension of the Persian Empire.
It is Plato 4 still, the prince of philosophers, who makes this reflection; and we shall find, if we narrowly examine the fact in question, how solid and judicious it is, and how inexcusable Cyrus's conduct was in this respect.
Never had any man more reason than Cyrus to be sensible how highly necessary a good education is to a young prince. He knew the whole value of it with regard to himself, and had found all the advantages of it from his own experience. What he most earnestly recommended to his officers, in that fine discourse which he made to them after the taking of Babylon, in order to exhort them to maintain the glory and reputation they had required, was to educate their children in the same manner as they knew they were educated in Persia, and to preserve themselves in the practice of the same manners as were practised there.
Would one believe, that a prince, who spoke and thought in this manner, could ever have entirely neglected the education of his own children? Yet this is what happened to Cyrus. Forgetting that he was a father, and employing himself wholly about his conquests, he left that care entirely to women, that is, to princesses, brought up in a country, where vanity, luxury, and voluptuousness, reigned in the highest degree; for the queen, his wife, was of Media. And in the same taste and manner were the two young princes, Cambyses and Smerdis, educated. Nothing they asked was ever refused them; nor were their desires only granted, but anticipated. The great maxim was, that their atten
a Cyrop. 1. ii. p 215. b Sallust, d Lab. in. de Leg. p. 694, 695.
c Tacit Annal. I vi. c. 48,
dants should cross them in nothing, never contradict them, nor ever make use of reproofs or remonstrances with them. No one opened his mouth in their presence, but to praise and commend what they said and did. Every one cringed and stooped, and bent the knee before them: and it was thought essential to their greatness, to place an infinite distance between them and the rest of mankind, as if they had been of a different species from them. It is Plato that informs us of all these particulars: for Xenophon, probably to spare his hero, says not one word of the manner in which these princes were brought up, though he gives us so ample an account of the education of their father.
What surprises me the most is, that Cyrus did not, at least, take them along with him in his last compaigns, in order to draw them out of that soft and effeminate course of life, and to instruct them in the art of war; for they must needs have been of sufficient years: but perhaps the women opposed his design, and overruled him.
Whatever the obstacle was, the effect of the education of these princes was such as might be expected from it. Cambyses came out of that school what he is represented in history, an obstinate and self-conceited prince, full of arrogance and vanity, abandoned to the most scandalous excesses of drunkenness and debauchery, cruel and inhuman even to the causing of his own brother to be murdered in consequence of a dream; in a word, a furious, frantic madman, who, by his ill conduct, brought the empire to the brink of destruction.
His father,says Plato, left him at his death vast provinces, immense riches, with innumerable forces by sea and land: but he had not given him the means of preserving them, by teaching him the right use of such power.
This philosopher makes the same reflections with regard to Darius and Xerxes. The former, not being the son of a king, had not been brought up in the same effeminate manner as princes were; but ascended the throne with a long habit of industry, great temper and moderation, a courage little inferior to that of Cyrus, and by which he added to the empire almost as many provinces as the other had conquered. But he was no better a father than he, and reaped no benefit from the fault of his predecessor, in neglecting the education of his children. Accordingly, his son Xerxes was little better than a second Cambyses.
From all this, Plato, after having shown what numberless rocks and quicksands, almost unavoidable, lie in the way of persons bred in the arms of wealth and greatness, concludes, that one principal cause of the declension and ruin the Persian empire, was the bad education of their
princes; because those first examples had an influence upon, and became a kind of rule to all their successors, under whom every thing still degenerated more and more, till at last their luxury exceeded all bounds and restraints.
SECT. IV. Their Breach of Faith, and want of Smcerity.
a We are informed by Xenophon that one of the causes, both of the great corruption of manners among the Persians, and of the destruction of their empire, was their want of public faith. Formerly, says he, the king, and those that governed under him, thought it an indispensible duty to keep their word, and inviolably to observe all treaties, into which they had entered, with the solemnity of an oath; and that even with respect to those that had rendered themselves most unworthy of such treatment, through their perfidioustness and insincerity: and it was by this sound policy and prudent conduct, that they gained the absolute confidence, both of their own subjects, and of all neighbours and allies. This is a very great encomium given by the histo rian to the Persians, which undoubtedly belongs to the reign of the great Cyrus; though Xenophon applies it likewise to that of the younger Cyrus, whose grand maxim was, as - he tells us, never to violate his faith, upon any pretence whatsoever, with regard either to any word he had given, any promise made, or any treaty he had concluded. These -princes had a just idea of the regal dignity, and rightly judged, that if probity and truth were renounced by the rest of mankind, they ought to find a sanctuary in the heart of a king; who being the bond and centre, as it were, of society, should also be the protector and avenger of faith engaged; which is the very foundation whereon the other depends.
Such sentiments as these, so noble, and so worthy of persons born for government, did not last long. A false prudence, and a spurious artificial policy, soon succeeded in their place. Instead of faith, probity, and true merit, says Xenophone, which heretofore the prince used to cherish and distinguish, all the chief officers of the court began to be filled with those pretended zealous servants of the king, who sacrifice every thing to his humour and supposed interests; who hold it as a maxim, that falsehood and deceit, perfidiousness and perjury, if boldly and artfully put in practice, are the shortest and surest expedients for bringing about his enterprises and designs; who look upon a scrupulous adherence in a prince a Cyrop. I. viii. p. 239. b De exped. Cyr. l. i. p. 267.
c Cyrop. 1. viii. p. 239.
«Ἐπὶ τὸ κατεργάζεσθαι ὧν ἐπιθυμοίη, συντομωτά την όδον 'ετο είναι διὰ τῇ ἐπιορκεῖν τε, καὶ ψεύδεσθαι, καὶ ἐξαπατῶν· τὸ δὲ ἀπλῶν τε καὶ ἀληθές, τὸ avrò Tập tí εTva. De exped. Cyr. l. i. p. 292.