But Artaxerxes, being now advanced in years, perceived that his sons were forming rival parties among his friends and chief men with reference to the royal succession. For the conservatives thought it right that, as he himself had received the royal power by virtue of seniority, in like manner he should leave it to Dareius. But his youngest son, Ochus, who was of an impetuous and violent disposition, not only had many adherents among the courtiers, but hoped for most success in winning over his father through the aid of Atossa.
For he sought to gain Atossa's favour by promising that she should be his wife and share the throne with him after the death of his father. And there was a report that even while his father was alive Ochus had secret relations with Atossa. But Artaxerxes was ignorant of this; and wishing to shatter at once the hopes of Ochus, that he might not venture upon the same course as Cyrus and so involve the kingdom anew in wars and contests, he proclaimed Dareius, then fifty years of age, his successor to the throne, and gave him permission to wear the upright
‘kitanis,’ as the tiara was called.
Now, there was a custom among the Persians that the one appointed to the royal succession should ask a boon, and that the one who appointed him should give whatever was asked, if it was within his power. Accordingly, Dareius asked for Aspasia, who had been the special favourite of Cyrus, and was then a concubine of the king. She was a native of Phocaea, in Ionia, born of free parents, and fittingly educated.
Once when Cyrus was at supper she was led in to him along with other women. The rest of the women took the seats given them, and when Cyrus proceeded to sport and dally and jest with them, showed no displeasure at his friendly advances. But Aspasia stood by her couch in silence, and would not obey when Cyrus called her; and when his chamberlains would have led her to him, she said:
‘Verily, whosoever lays his hands upon me shall rue the day.’ The guests therefore thought her a graceless and rude creature.
But Cyrus was delighted, and laughed, and said to the man who had brought the women:
‘Dost thou not see at once that this is the only free and unperverted woman thou hast brought me?’ From this time on he was devoted to her, and loved her above all women, and called her The Wise. She was taken prisoner when Cyrus fell in the battle at Cunaxa and his camp was plundered.1