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Zopyrus

*Zw/puros), historical. 1. A distinguished Persian, son of Megabyzus, one of the seven chiefs who killed the false Smerdis, served under Dareius against Babylon, which had revolted at the commencement of his reign. After Dareius had besieged the city for twenty months in vain, Zopyrus resolved to gain the place for his master by the most extraordinary self-sacrifice. Accordingly, one day he appeared before Dareius, with his body mutilated in the most horrible manner; both his ears and nose were cut off, and his person otherwise disfigured. After explaining to Dareius his intentions and concerting measures with him, he fled to Babylon as a victim of the cruelty of the Persian king. The Babylonians, seeing one of the most distinguished Persians in such a horrible condition, readily gave him their confidence, and placed him at the head of their troops. He soon found means to betray the city to Dareius, who severely punished the inhabitants for their revolt. Dareius appointed Zopyrus satrap of Babylon for life, with the enjoyment of its entire revenues, and also bestowed upon him many other marks of his confidence and esteem. He was accustomed to say that he would rather have Zopyrus without wounds than possess twenty Babylons. (Hdt. 3.153-160.)

Ctesias places the revolt of Babylon in the reign of Xerxes. He relates that the Babylonians slew their satrap Zopyrus, and that Megabyzus, the son of Zopyrus, betrayed the city to Xerxes by means of the same stratagem which Herodotus ascribes to Zopyrus. [MEGABYZUS, No. 2.] But the account of Herodotus is preferable on many accounts. (See Grote, Hist. of Greece. vol. iv. p. 310, note.)

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