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When his life was far spent amid such achievements1 and Cyrus was now a very old man, he came back for the seventh time in his reign to Persia. His father and his mother were in the course of nature long since dead; so Cyrus performed the customary sacrifice and led the Persians in their national dance and distributed presents among them all, as had been his custom. [2]

As he slept in the palace, he saw a vision: a2 figure of more than human majesty appeared to him in a dream and said: “Make ready,3 Cyrus; for thou shalt soon depart to the gods.” When the vision was past, he awoke and seemed almost to know that the end of his life was at hand. [3] Accordingly, he at once took victims and offered sacrifice in the high places to ancestral Zeus, to Helius, and to the rest of the gods, even as the Persians are wont to make sacrifice; and as he sacrificed, he prayed, saying: “O4 ancestral Zeus and Helius and all the gods, accept these offerings as tokens of gratitude for help in achieving many glorious enterprises; for in omens in the sacrifice, in signs from heaven, in the flight of birds, and in ominous words, ye ever showed me what I ought to do and what I ought not to do. And I render heartfelt thanks to you that I have never failed to recognize your fostering care and never in my successes entertained proud thoughts transcending human bounds. And I beseech of you that ye will now also grant prosperity and happiness to my children, my wife, my friends, and my country, and to me myself an end befitting the life that ye have given me.” [4]

Then after he had concluded his rites and come home, he thought he would be glad to rest and so lay down; and when the hour came, those whose office it was came in and bade him go to his bath. But he told them that he was resting happily. And then again, when the hour came, those whose office it was set dinner before him. But his soul had no desire for food, but he seemed thirsty and drank with pleasure. [5]

And when the same thing befell him on the next day and the day after that, he summoned his sons; for they had accompanied him, as it chanced, and were still in Persia. He summoned also his friends and the Persian magistrates; and when they were all come, he began to speak as follows: [6]

“My sons, and all you my friends about me,5 the end of my life is now at hand; I am quite sure of this for many reasons; and when I am dead, you must always speak and act in regard to me as of one blessed of fortune. For when I was a boy, I think I6 plucked all the fruits that among boys count for the best; when I became a youth, I enjoyed what is accounted best among young men; and when I became a mature man, I had the best that men can have. And as time went on, it seemed to me that I recognized that my own strength was always increasing with my years, so that I never found my old age growing any more feeble than my youth had been; and, so far as I know, there is nothing that I ever attempted or desired and yet failed to secure. [7]

“Moreover, I have lived to see my friends made7 prosperous and happy through my efforts and my enemies reduced by me to subjection; and my country, which once played no great part in Asia, I now leave honoured above all. Of all my conquests, there is not once that I have not maintained. Throughout the past I have fared even as I have wished; but a fear that was ever at my side, lest in the time to come I might see or hear or experience something unpleasant, would not let me become overweeningly proud or extravagantly happy. [8]

“But now, if I die, I leave you, my sons, whom the gods have given me, to survive me, and I leave my friends and country happy; [9] and so why should I not be justly accounted blessed and enjoy an immortality of fame?

“But I must also declare my will about the disposition8 of my throne, that the succession may not become a matter of dispute and cause you trouble. Now, I love you both alike, my sons; but precedence in counsel and leadership in everything that may be thought expedient, that I commit to the first born, who naturally has a wider experience. [10] I, too, was thus trained by my country and yours to give precedence to my elders—not merely to brothers but to all fellow-citizens—on the street, in the matter of seats, and in speaking; and so from the beginning, my children, I have been training you also to honour your elders above yourselves and to be honoured above those who are younger. Take what I say, therefore, as that which is approved by time, by custom, and by the law. [11] So you, Cambyses, shall have the throne, the gift of the gods and of myself, in so far as it is mine to give.

“To you, Tanaoxares, I give the satrapy of Media, Armenia, and, in addition to those two, Cadusia. And in giving you this office, I consider that I leave to your older brother greater power and the title of king, while to you I leave a happiness disturbed by fewer cares; [12] for I cannot see what human pleasure you will lack; on the contrary, everything that is thought to bring pleasure to man will be yours. But to set one's heart on more difficult undertakings, to be cumbered with many cares, and to be able to find no rest, because spurred on by emulation of what I have done, to lay plots and to be plotted against, all that must necessarily go hand in hand with royal power more than with your station; and, let me assure you, it brings many interruptions to happiness. [13]

“As for you, Cambyses, you must also know9 that it is not this golden sceptre that maintains your empire; but faithful friends are a monarch's truest and surest sceptre. But do not think that man is naturally faithful; else all men would find the same persons faithful, just as all find the other properties of nature the same. But every one must create for himself faithfulness in his friends; and the winning of such friends comes in no wise by compulsion, but by kindness. [14] If, then, you shall endeavour to make others also fellow-guardians of your sovereignty, make a beginning nowhere sooner than with him who is of the same blood with yourself. Fellow-citizens, you know, stand nearer than foreigners do, and messmates nearer than those who eat elsewhere; but those who are sprung from the same seed, nursed by the same mother, reared in the same home, loved by the same parents, and who address the same persons as father and mother, how are they not the closest of all? [15] Do not you two, therefore, ever make of no effect those blessings whereby the gods have led the way to knitting close the bonds between brothers, but do you build at once upon that foundation still other works of love; and thus the love between you will always be a love that no other men can ever surpass. Surely he that has forethought for his brother is taking care for himself; for to whom else is a brother's greatness more of an honour than to a brother? And who else will be honoured by the power of a great man so much as that man's brother? And if a man's brother is a great man, whom will any one so much fear to injure as that man's brother? [16]

“Therefore, Tanaoxares, let no one more10 readily than yourself yield obedience to your brother or more zealously support him. For his fortunes, good or ill, will touch no one more closely than yourself. And bear this also in mind: whom could you favour in the hope of getting more from him than from your brother? Where could you lend help and get in return a surer ally than you would find in him? Whom would it be a more shameful thing for you not to love than your own brother? And who is there in all the world whom it would be a more noble thing to prefer in honour than your brother? It is only a brother, you know, Cambyses, whom, if he holds the first place of love in his brother's heart, the envy of others cannot reach. [17]

“Nay by our fathers' gods I implore you, my sons, honour one another, if you care at all to give me pleasure. For assuredly, this one thing, so it11 seems to me, you do not know clearly, that I shall have no further being when I have finished this earthly life; for not even in this life have you seen my soul, but you have detected its existence by what it accomplished. [18] Have you never yet observed what terror the souls of those who have been foully dealt with strike into the hearts of those who have shed their blood, and what avenging deities they send upon the track of the wicked? And do you think that the honours paid to the dead would continue, if their souls had no part in any of them? [19] I am sure I do not; nor yet, my sons, have I ever convinced myself of this—that only as long as it is contained in a mortal body is the soul alive, but when it has been freed from it, is dead; for I see that it is the soul that endues mortal bodies with life, as long as it is in them. [20] Neither have I been able to convince myself of this—that the soul will want intelligence just when it is separated from this unintelligent body; but when the spirit is set free, pure and untrammelled by matter, then it is likely to be most intelligent. And when man is resolved into his primal elements, it is clear that every part returns to kindred matter, except the soul; that alone cannot be seen, either when present or when departing. [21]

“Consider again,” he continued, “that there is nothing in the world more nearly akin to death than is sleep; and the soul of man at just such times is revealed in its most divine aspect and at such times, too, it looks forward into the future; for then, it seems, it is most untrammelled by the bonds of the flesh. [22]

“Now if this is true, as I think it is, and if the12 soul does leave the body, then do what I request of you and show reverence for my soul. But if it is not so, and if the soul remains in the body and dies with it, then at least fear the gods, eternal, all-seeing, omnipotent, who keep this ordered universe together, unimpaired, ageless, unerring, indescribable in its beauty and its grandeur; and never allow yourselves to do or purpose anything wicked or unholy. [23]

“Next to the gods, however, show respect also to all the race of men as they continue in perpetual succession; for the gods, do not hide you away in darkness, but your works must ever live on in the sight of all men; and if they are pure and untainted with unrighteousness, they will make your power manifest among all mankind. But if you conceive any unrighteous schemes against each other, you will forfeit in the eyes of all men your right to be trusted. For no one would be able any longer to trust you—not even if he very much desired to do so—if he saw either of you wronging that one who has the first claim to the other's love. [24]

“Now, if I am giving you sufficient instructions as to what manner of men you ought to be one towards the other—well and good; if not, then you must learn it from the history of the past, for this is the best source of instruction. For, as a rule, parents have always been friends to their children, brothers to their brothers; but ere now some of them have been at enmity one with another. Whichever, therefore, of these two courses you shall find to have been profitable, choose that, and you would counsel well. [25]

“But of this, perhaps, enough.

“Now as to my body, when I am dead, my13 sons, lay it away neither in gold nor in silver nor in anything else, but commit it to the earth as soon as may be. For what is more blessed than to be united with the earth, which brings forth and nourishes all things beautiful and all things good? I have always been a friend to man, and I think I should gladly now become a part of that which does him so much good. [26]

“But I must conclude,” he said; “for my soul seems to me to be slipping away from those parts of my body, from which, as it appears, it is wont to begin its departure. So if any one wishes to take my hand or desires to look into my face while I yet live, let him come near; but after I have covered myself over, I beg of you, my children, let no one look upon my body, not even yourselves. [27]

“Invite, however, all the Persians and our allies to my burial, to joy with me in that I shall henceforth be in security such that no evil can ever again come nigh me, whether I shall be in the divine presence or whether I shall no longer have any being; and to all those who come show all the courtesies that are usual in honour of a man that has been blessed of fortune, and then dismiss them. [28]

“Remember also this last word of mine,” he said: “if you do good to your friends, you will also be able to punish your enemies. And now farewell, my children, and say farewell to your mother as from me. And to all my friends, both present and absent, I bid farewell.”

After these words, he shook hands with them all, covered himself over, and so died.<

1 The passing of Cyrus

2 He is warned in a vision

3 Literally “Be packing up”; cf. Varro, de R.R. 1. 1: annus octogesimus admonet me ut sarcinas colligam antequam proficiscar e vita.

4 His prayer

5 His last words

6 He reviews his life

7 His services

8 He defines the succession

9 His words of counsel—(1) to Cambyses;

10 (2) to Tanaoxares

11 Cyrus on the immortality of the soul

12 He preaches the doctrine of reverence

13 He gives directions for his burial

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    • Harper's, Persia
    • William Watson Goodwin, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb, Chapter IV
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