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Smerdis

Σμέρδις). The son of the Cyrus who was murdered by order of his brother Cambyses. (See Cambyses.) His real name was Bardes. The death of Smerdis was kept a profound secret; and accordingly, when the Persians became weary of the tyranny of Cambyses, one of the Magians, called by Herodotus Patizithes, who had been left by Cambyses in charge of his palace and treasures, availed himself of the likeness of his brother Gaumates to the deceased Smerdis to proclaim this brother as king, representing him as the younger son of Cyrus. Cambyses heard of the revolt in Syria, but he died of an accidental wound in the thigh as he was mounting his horse to march against the usurper. The false Smerdis was acknowledged as king by the Persians, and reigned for seven months without opposition. The leading Persian nobles, however, were not quite free from suspicion; and this suspicion was increased by the king never inviting any of them to the palace, and never appearing in public. Among the nobles who entertained these suspicions was Otanes, whose daughter Phaedima had been one of the wives of Cambyses, and had been transferred to his successor. The new king had some years before been deprived of his ears by Cyrus for some offence; and Otanes persuaded his daughter to ascertain whether her master had really lost his ears. Phaedima found out that such was the fact, and communicated the decisive information to her father. Otanes thereupon formed a conspiracy, and, in conjunction with six other noble Persians, succeeded in forcing his way into the palace, where they slew the false Smerdis and his brother Patizithes in the eighth month of their reign, B.C. 521 (Herod.iii. 30Herod., 61-79). The usurpation of the false Smerdis was an attempt on the part of the Medes, to whom the Magians belonged, to obtain the supremacy, of which they had been deprived by Cyrus. The assassination of Gaumates and the accession of Darius Hystaspis again gave the ascendency to the Persians; and the anniversary of the day on which the Magians were massacred was commemorated among the Persians by a festival, called Magophonia, on which no Magian was allowed to show himself in public. The real nature of the transaction is also shown by the revolt of the Medes after the accession of Darius. See Hutecker, Ueber d. falschen Smerdis (1885); and the article Persia.

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