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Κῦρος; in Persian, Kurus).


A celebrated conqueror, and the founder of the Persian Empire. He comes forth in a line of monarchs who ruled in Susiana. According to Herodotus, he was the son of Mandani, daughter of Astyages, king of the Medes. The father of Cyrus was the Persian Cambyses. It having been foretold that Mandani's son would become the lord of all Asia, Astyages attempted to destroy the infant, and delivered it to Harpagus, his attendant, to kill. Harpagus, however, fearing the anger of Mandani, gave the child to a herdsman, one Mitradates, who reared the young Cyrus as his own son, under the name of Agradates. When ten years of age, the true parentage of the boy was accidentally discovered by Astyages, who, after punishing Harpagus with great barbarity, sent Cyrus to his parents in Persia. When the young prince grew up, he headed a revolt against Astyages, who had become unpopular by his tyranny, and defeated him in battle (B.C. 559). The Medes then accepted Cyrus as their king.

He had not been long seated on the throne when his dominions were invaded by Croesus, king of Lydia, the issue of which contest was so fatal to the latter. (See Croesus.) The conquest of Lydia established the Persian monarchy on a firm foundation, and Cyrus was now called away to the East by vast designs and by the threats of a distant and formidable enemy. Babylon still remained an independent city in the heart of his empire, and to reduce it was his first and most pressing care. On another side he was tempted by the wealth and weakness of Egypt, while his northern frontier was disturbed and endangered by the fierce barbarians who ranged over the plains that stretch from the skirts of the Indian Caucasus to the Caspian. Until these last should be subdued or humbled his Eastern provinces could never enjoy peace or safety. These objects demanded his own presence; the subjugation of the Asiatic Greeks, as a less urgent and less difficult enterprise, he committed to his lieutenants. While the latter, therefore, were executing his commands in the West, he was himself enlarging and strengthening his power in the East. After completing the subjugation of the nations west of the Euphrates, he marched upon Babylon (q.v.), which he took. The account of this conquest, as described by Herodotus, is given in the article Babylon. Recent archæological discoveries, however, tend to discredit his narrative. A tabletinscription found at Babylon states that Cyrus, “king of Elam,” took Sippara and Babylon “without fighting.” This took place in B.C. 538. See Sayce, Fresh Light from the Ancient Monuments (London, 1883); and his Introduction to Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther (2d ed. London, 1887).

Cyrus enjoyed no long interval of repose. The protection which he afforded to the Jews was prob

Cyrus. (Pasargadae.)

ably connected with his designs upon Egypt, but he never found leisure to carry them into effect. Soon after the fall of Babylon he undertook an expedition against one of the nations on the eastern side of the Caspian. According to Herodotus, it was the Massagetae, a nomadic horde which had driven the Scythians before them towards the West; and, after gaining a victory over them by stratagem, he was defeated in a great battle and slain. The event is the same in the narrative of Ctesias; but the people against whom Cyrus marched are called the Derbices, and their army is strengthened by troops and elephants furnished by Indian allies; while the death of Cyrus is speedily avenged by one of his vassals, Amorges, king of the Sacae, who gains a decisive victory over the Derbices, and annexes their land to the Persian Empire. Cyrus died in B.C. 529. His son and successor, Cambyses, had been made by him king of Babylon three years before. Cyrus was one of the greatest Asiatics who ever lived; and with the exception of Egypt, the greater part of the Old World was under his rule at the time of his death. His capitals were Ecbatana and Susa; and his tomb exists to-day at Murgab, near Pasargadae.


Commonly called “the Younger,” to distinguish him from the preceding, was the second of the four sons of Darius Nothus and Parysatis. According to the customs of the monarchy, his elder brother Artaxerxes was the legitimate heir-apparent; but Cyrus was the first son born to Darius after his accession to the throne, and he was also his mother's favourite. She had encouraged him to hope that, as Xerxes, through the influence of Atossa, had been preferred to his elder brother, who was born while their father was yet in a private station, so she should be able to persuade Darius to set aside Artaxerxes and declare Cyrus his successor. In the meanwhile he was invested with the government of the western provinces. This appointment he seems from the first to have considered as a step to the throne. He had, however, sagacity and courage enough to perceive that, should he be disappointed in his first expectations, the co-operation of the Greeks might still enable him to force his way to the throne. It was with this view that he zealously embraced the side of Sparta in her struggle with Athens, both as the power which he found in the most prosperous condition and as that which was most capable of furthering his designs. According to Plutarch (Artax. 2), Cyrus went to attend his father's sick-bed with sanguine hopes that his mother had accomplished her purpose, and that he was sent for to receive the crown. On his arrival at court, however, he saw himself disappointed in his expectations, and found that he had only come to witness his father's death and his brother's accession to the throne. He accompanied Artaxerxes, whom the Greeks distinguished by the epithet of Mnemon, to Pasargadae, where the Persian kings went through certain mystic ceremonies of inauguration, and Tissaphernes took this opportunity of charging Cyrus with a design against his life. It would seem, from Plutarch's account, that one of the officiating priests was suborned to support the charge, though it is by no means certain that it was unfounded. Artaxerxes was convinced of its truth, and determined on putting his brother to death; and Cyrus was only saved by the passionate entreaties of Parysatis, in whose arms he had sought refuge from the executioner. On this occasion Artaxerxes suffered her to overpower both the suspicions suggested by Tissaphernes and the jealousy which the temper and situation of Cyrus might reasonably have excited. He not only pardoned his brother, but permitted him to return to his government. Cyrus felt himself not obliged, but humbled, by his rival's clemency; and the danger he had escaped only strengthened his resolution to make himself, as soon as possible, independent of the power to which he owed his life.

Immediately after his return to Sardis, he began to make preparations for the execution of his designs. The chief difficulty was to keep them concealed from Artaxerxes until they were fully matured; for though his mother, who was probably from the beginning acquainted with his purpose, was at court, always ready to put the most favourable construction on his conduct, yet Tissaphernes was at hand to watch it with malignant attention and to send the earliest information of any suspicious movement to the king. Cyrus, however, devised a variety of pretexts to blind Tissaphernes and the court, while he collected an army for the expedition which he was meditating. His main object was to raise as strong a body of Greek troops as he could, for it was only with such aid that he could hope to overpower an adversary who had the whole force of the Empire at his command; and he knew enough of the Greeks to believe that their superiority over his countrymen, in skill and courage, was sufficient to compensate for almost any inequality of numbers.

In the spring of B.C. 401, Cyrus began his march from Sardis. His whole Grecian force, a part of which joined him on the route, amounted to 11,000 heavy infantry and about 2000 targeteers. His barbarian troops were 100,000 strong. After directing his line of march through the whole extent of Asia Minor, he entered the Babylonian territory; and it was not until he reached the plain of Cunaxa, between sixty and seventy miles from Babylon, that he became certain of his brother's intention to hazard an engagement. Artaxerxes met him in this spot at the head of an army of 900,000 men. If we may believe Plutarch, the Persian monarch had continued to waver almost to the last between the alternatives of fighting and retreating, and was only diverted from adopting the latter course by the energetic remonstrances of Tiribazus. In the battle which ensued the Greeks soon routed the barbarians opposed to them, but committed an error in pursuing them too far; and Cyrus was compelled, in order to avoid being surrounded by the rest of the king's army, to make an attack upon the centre, where his brother led in person. He routed the royal body-guard, and being hurried away by the violence of his feelings the moment he espied the king, he engaged with him, but was himself wounded and slain by a common soldier. Had Clearchus acted in conformity with the directions of Cyrus, and led his division against the king's centre, instead of being drawn off into pursuit of the flying enemy, the victory must have belonged to Cyrus. According to the Persian custom of treating slain rebels, the head and right hand of Cyrus were cut off and brought to the king, who is said himself to have seized the head by the hair and to have held it up as a proof of his victory to the view of the surrounding crowd. Thus ended the expedition of Cyrus. The Greeks, after the battle, began to negotiate with the king through Tissaphernes, who offered to lead them home. He treacherously violated his word, however; and having, by an act of perfidy, obtained possession of the persons of the Greek commanders, he sent them up to the king at Babylon, where they were all put to death. The Greeks were not, however, discouraged, though at a great distance from their country and surrounded on every side by a powerful enemy. They immediately chose new commanders, in the number of whom was Xenophon, who has given an account of their celebrated retreat. See Anabasis.

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