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East, the name of Persia extended itself with their conquests and fortune, and comprehended all that vast tract of country, which reaches from east to west, from the river Indus to the Tigris; and from north to south, from the Caspian sea to the ocean. And still to this day the country of Persia has the same extent.
Cyrus was beautiful in his person, and still more deserving of esteem for the qualities of his mind; was of a very sweet disposition, full of good nature and humanity, and had a great desire for learning, and a noble ardour for glory. He was never afraid of any danger, or discouraged by any hardship or difficulty, where honour was to be acquired. He was brought up according to the laws and customs of the Persians, which were excellent in those days, with respect to education.
The public good, the common benefit of the nation, was the only principle and end of all their laws. The education of children was looked upon as the most important duty, and the most essential part of government: it was not left to the care of fathers and mothers, whose blind affection and fondness often render them incapable of that office; but the state took it upon themselves. Boys were all brought up in common, after one uniform manner; where every thing was regulated, the place and length of their exercises, the times of eating, the quality of their meat and drink, and their different kinds of punishment. The only food allowed either the children, or the young men, was bread, cresses, and water; for their design was to accustom them early to temperance and sobriety: besides, they considered, that a plain, frugal diet, without any mixture of sauces or ragouts, would strengthen the body, and lay such a foundation of health, as would enable them to undergo the hardships and fatigues of war to a good old age.
Here boys went to school, to learn justice and virtue, as they do in other places to learn arts and sciences; and the crime most severely punished amongst them, was ingratitude. The design of the Persians, in all these wise regulations, was to prevent evil, being convinced that it is much better to prevent faults, than to punish them: and whereas in other states the legislators are satisfied with enacting punishments for criminals, the Persians endeavoured so to order it, as to have no criminals amongst them.
Till 16 or 17 years of age the boys remained in the class of children; and here it was they learned to draw the bow, and to fling the dart or javelin; after which they were received into the class of young men. In this they were more
narrowly watched, and kept under than before, because that age requires the strictest inspection, and has the greatest need of restraint. Here they remained ten years; during which time they passed all their nights in keeping guard, as well for the safety of the city, as to inure them to fatigue. In the day time they waited upon their governors, to receive their orders, attended the king when he went a hunting, or improved themselves in their exercises.
The third class consisted of men grown up; and in this they remained 25 years. Out of these all the officers that were to command in the troops, and all such as were to fill the different posts and employments in the state, were chosen. When they were turned of fifty, they were not obliged to carry arms out of their own country.
Besides these, there was a fourth or last class, from whence men of the greatest wisdom and experience were chosen, for forming the public council, and presiding in the courts of judicature.
By this means every citizen might aspire at the chief posts in the government; but not one could arrive at them, till he had passed through all these several classes, and made himself capable of them by all these exercises. The classes were open to all; but generally such only, as were rich enough to maintain their children without working, sent them thither.
a Cyrus himself was educated in this manner, and surpassed all of his age, not only in aptness to learn, but in courage and address in executing whatever he undertook.
Cyrus's Journey to his Grandfather Astyages, and his Return into Persia.
When Cyrus was twelve years old, his mother Mandana took him with her into Media, to his grandfather Astyages, who, from the many things he had heard said in favour of that young prince, had a great desire to see him. In this court young Cyrus found very different manners from those of his own country. Pride, luxury, and magnificence reigned here universally. Astyages himself was richly clothed, ☀ had his eyes coloured, his face painted, and his hair embel
a Cyrop. l. i. p. 8-22.
6 The ancients. in order to set off the beauty of the face, and to give more life to their complexions, used to form their eyebrows into perfect arches, and to colour them with black. To give the greater lustre to their eyes, they made their eye-lashes of the same blackness. This artifice was much in use among the Hebrews. It is said of Jezebel, Depinxit oculos suos stibio, & Kings ix, 30. This drug had an astringent quality. which shrunk up the eye-lids, and made the eyes appear the larger, which at that time was reckoned a beauty. Plin. 1. xxxii. c. 6. From hence comes that epithet, which Homer so often gives to his goddesses: Bowπis "Hpn, great eyed Juno,
lished with artificial locks. For the Medes affected an effeminate life, to be dressed in scarlet, and to wear necklaces and bracelets; whereas the habits of the Persians were very plain and coarse. All this finery did not dazzle Cyrus, who, without criticising or condemning what he saw, was contented to live as he had been brought up, and adhered to the principles he had imbibed from his infancy. He charmed his grandfather with his sprightliness and wit, and gained every body's favour by his noble and engaging behaviour. I shall only mention one instance, whereby we may judge of
Astyages, to make his grandson unwilling to return home, made a sumptuous entertainment, in which there was the utmost plenty and profusion of every thing that was nice and delicate. All this exquisite cheer and magnificent preparation Cyrus looked upon with great indifference; and observing Astyages to be surprised at his behaviour; "The Per"sians (says he to the king) instead of going such a round"about way to appease their hunger, have a much shorter "to the same end; a little bread and cresses with them an
swer the purpose." Astyages desiring Cyrus to dispose of all the meats as he thought fit, the latter immediately distributed them to the king's officers in waiting; to one, because he taught him to ride; to another, because he waited well upon his grandfather; and to a third, because he took great care of his mother. Sacas, the king's cup-bearer, was the only person to whom he gave nothing. This officer, besides the post of cup-bearer, had that likewise of introducing those who were to have audience of the king; and as he could not possibly grant that favour to Cyrus as often as he desired it, he had the misfortune to displease the prince, who took this occasion to show his resentment. Astyages testifying some concern at the neglect of this officer, for whom he had a particular consideration, and who deserved it, as he said, on açcount of the wonderful dexterity with which he served him: "Is that all, papa? (replied Cyrus) if that be sufficient to "merit your favour, you shall see I will quickly obtain it; "for I will take upon me to serve you better than he." Immediately Cyrus is equipped as a cup-bearer, and advancing gravely with a serious countenance, a napkin upon his shoulder, and holding the cup nicely with three of his fingers, he presented it to the king with a dexterity and a grace, that charmed both Astyages and Mandana. When he had done, he flung himself upon his grandfather's neck,and kissing him, cried out with great joy; a“ O Sacas! poor Sacas! thou "art undone; I shall have thy place." Astyages embraced him with great fondness, and said: "I am mighty well pleas
α ̓͂Ω Σάκα, ἀπόλωλας ἐκβαλῶ σε τῆς τιμῆς,
"ed, my dear child: nobody can serve with a better grace: "but you have forgotten one essential ceremony, which is "that of tasting." And indeed the cup-bearer was used to pour some of the liquor into his left hand, and to taste it, before he presented it to the king: "No, (replied Cyrus) it was not through forgetfulness that I omitted that ceremony." Why then (says Astyages) for what reason did you do it?" "Because I apprehended there was poison in the liquor." Poison, child! How could you think so?" "Yes, poison, papa; for not long ago, at an entertainment you gave to "the lords of your court, after guests had drunk a little "of that liquor, I perceived all their heads were turned; "they sung, made a noise, and talked they did not know "what you yourself seemed to have forgotten that you were king, and they that they were subjects; and when you "would have danced, you could not stand upon your legs.” "Why (says Astyages) have you never seen the same thing happen to your father?" "No, never," (says Cyrus). "What then? How is it with him when he drinks" "Why, "when he has drunk, his thirst is quenched, and that's all."
We cannot too much admire the skill of the historian, in his giving such an excellent lesson of sobriety in this story: He might have done it in a serious, grave way, and have spoken with the air of a philosopher; for Xenophon, as much a warrior as he was, yet was he as excellent a philosopher as his master Socrates. But instead of that, he puts the instruction into the mouth of a child, and conceals it under the veil of a story, which in the original is told with all the wit and agreeableness imaginable.
Mandana being upon the point of returning to Persia, Cyrus joyfully complied with the repeated instances his grandfather had made to him to stay in Media; being desirous, as he said, to perfect himself in the art of riding, which he was not yet master of, and which was not known in Persia, where the barrenness of the country, and its craggy mountainous situation, rendered it unfit for the breeding of horses.
During the time of his residence at this court, his behaviour procured him infinite love and esteem. He was gentle, affable, anxious to oblige, beneficent and generous. Whenever the young lords had any favour to ask of the king, Cyrus was their solicitor. If the king had any subject of complaint against them, Cyrus was their mediator; their affairs became his; and he always managed them so well, that he obtained whatever he desired.
When Cyrus was about sixteen years of age, the son of the king of the a Babylonians (this was Evil-merodach, son
a In Xenophon this people are always called Assyrians; and in truth they are Assyrians, but Assyrians of Babylon, whom we must not confound with those of Nineveh, whose empire, as we have seen already, was utterly destroyed by the ruin of Nineveh, the capital thereof.
of Nabuchodonosor) at a hunting-match a little before his marriage, thought fit, in order to show his bravery, to make an irruption into the territories of the Medes; which obliged Astyages to take the field, to oppose the invader. Here it was that Cyrus, having followed his grandfather, served his apprenticeship in war. He behaved himself so well on this occasion, that the victory, which the Medes gained over. the Babylonians, was chiefly owing to his valour.
The year after, his father recalling him, that he might complete his course in the Persian exercises, he departed immediately from the court of Media, that neither his father nor his country might have any room to complain of his delay. This occasion showed how much he was beloved. At his departure he was accompanied by all sorts of people, young and old. Astyages himself conducted him a good part of his journey on horseback; and when the sad moment came, that they must part, the whole company were bathed in tears.
Thus Cyrus returned into his own country, and re-entered the class of children, where he continued a year longer. His companions, after his long residence in so voluptuous and luxurious a court as that of the Medes, expected to find a great change in his manners: but when they found that he was content with their ordinary table, and that, when he was present at any entertainment, he was more sober and temperate than any of the company, they looked upon him with new admiration.
From this first class he passed into the second, which is the class of youths; and there it quickly appeared that he had not his equal in dexterity, address, patience and obedience.
Ten years after, he was admitted into the men's class, wherein he remained thirteen years, till he set out at the head of the Persian army, to go to the aid of his uncle Cy
The first campaign of Cyrus, who goes to succour his uncle Cyaxares against the Babylonians.
Astyages, king of the Medes, dying, was succeeded by his son Cyaxares, brother to Cyrus's mother. Cyaxares was no sooner on the throne, than he was engaged in a terrible war. He was informed, that the king of the Babylonians (Neriglissor) was preparing a powerful army against him, and that he had already engaged several princes on his
a A. M. 3421. Ant J. C. 583,
b A. M. 3444. Ant. J. C. 560. Cyrop. 1. i. pag. 22-37.