previous next

Such were their words and deeds. Then Cyrus ordered the men whom he knew to be Cyaxares's most intimate friends to divide among themselves the keeping of the king's portion of the booty. “And1 what you offer me,” he added, “I accept with pleasure; but it shall always be at the service of any one of you who at any time is most in need of it.”

“If you please, then, Cyrus,” said one of the Medes who was fond of music, “when I listened last evening to the music-girls whom you now have, I was entranced; and if you will give me one of them, I should, I think, be more happy to go to war with you than to stay at home.”

“Well,” said Cyrus, “I will not only give her to you, but I believe that I am under greater obligation to you for your asking than you to me for receiving her; so thirsty am I to do you favours.”

So he that asked received her. [2]

Then Cyrus called to him Araspas, a Mede, who had been his friend from boyhood—the same one to2 whom he had given his Median robe when he laid it off as he was returning from Astyages's court to Persia—and bade him keep for him both the lady and the tent. [3] Now this woman was the wife of Abradatas of Susa; and when the Assyrian camp was taken, her husband happened not to be there, having gone on an embassy to the king of Bactria; for the Assyrian king had sent him thither to negotiate an alliance, because he chanced to be a guest-friend of the Bactrian king. This, then, was the lady that Cyrus placed in the charge of Araspas, until such a time as he himself should take her. [4] And when he received this commission Araspas asked: “And3 have you seen the lady, Cyrus, whom you give into my keeping?” said he.

“No, by Zeus,” said Cyrus; “not I.”

“But I have,” said the other. “I saw her when we selected her for you. And when we went into her tent, upon my word, we did not at first distinguish her from the rest; for she sat upon the ground and all her handmaids sat around her. And she was dressed withal just like her servants; but when we looked round upon them all in our desire to make out which one was the mistress, at once her superiority to all the rest was evident, even though she sat veiled, with her head bowed to the earth. [5] But when we bade her rise, all her attendants stood up with her, and then was she conspicuous among them both for her stature and for her nobility and her grace, even though she stood there in lowly garb. And she could not hide her tears as they fell, some down her dress, some even to her feet. [6] Then, when the oldest man in our company said: ‘Have no fear, lady; for though we understand that your husband also is a noble man, yet we are choosing you out for a man who, be assured, is not his inferior either in comeliness or intelligence or power, but, as we at least think, if there is any man in the world who deserves admiration, that man is Cyrus; and his you shall henceforth be.' Now when the lady heard that, she rent her outer garment from top to bottom and wept aloud; and her servants also cried aloud with her. [7]

“And then we had vision of most of her face and vision of her neck and arms. And let me tell you, Cyrus,” said he, “it seemed to me, as it did to all the rest who saw her, that there never was so beautiful a woman of mortal birth in Asia. But,” he added, “you must by all means see her for yourself.” [8]

“No, by Zeus,” said Cyrus; “and all the less,4 if she is as beautiful as you say.”

“Why so?” asked the young man.

“Because,” said he, “if now I have heard from you that she is beautiful and am inclined just by your account of her to go and gaze on her, when I have no time to spare, I am afraid that she will herself much more readily persuade me to come again to gaze on her. And in consequence of that I might sit there, in neglect of my duties, idly gazing upon her.” [9]

“Why Cyrus,” said the young man breaking5 into a laugh, “you do not think, do you, that human beauty is able to compel a man against his will to act contrary to his own best interests? Why,” said he, “if that were a law of nature, it would compel us all alike. [10] Do you observe,” said he, “how fire burns all alike? That is its nature. But of beautiful things we love some and some we do not; and one loves one, another another; for it is a matter of free will, and each one loves what he pleases. For example, a brother does not fall in love with his sister, but somebody else falls in love with her; neither does a father fall in love with his daughter, but somebody else does; for fear of God and the law of the land are sufficient to prevent such love. [11] But,” he went on, “if a law should be passed forbidding those who did not eat to be hungry, those who did not drink to be thirsty, forbidding people to be cold in winter or hot in summer, no such law could ever bring men to obey its provisions, for they are so constituted by nature as to be subject to the control of such circumstances. But love is a matter of free will; at any rate, every one loves what suits his taste, as he does his clothes or shoes.” [12]

“How then, pray,” said Cyrus, “if falling in6 love is a matter of free will, is it not possible for any one to stop whenever he pleases? But I have seen people in tears of sorrow because of love and in slavery to the objects of their love, even though they believed before they fell in love that slavery is a great evil; I have seen them give those objects of their love many things that they could ill afford to part with; and I have seen people praying to be delivered from love just as from any other disease, and, for all that, unable to be delivered from it, but fettered by a stronger necessity than if they had been fettered with shackles of iron. At any rate, they surrender themselves to those they love to perform for them many services blindly. And yet, in spite of all their misery, they do not attempt to run away, but even watch their darlings to keep them from running away.” [13]

“Yes,” the young man answered; “there are7 some who do so; but such are wretched weaklings, and because of their slavery, I think, they constantly pray that they may die, because they are so unhappy; but, though there are ten thousand possible ways of getting rid of life, they do not get rid of it. And this very same sort attempt also to steal and do not keep their hands off other people's property; but when they commit robbery or theft, you see that you are the first to accuse the thief and the robber, because it was not necessary to steal, and you do not pardon him, but you punish him. [14] Now in this same way, the beautiful do not compel people to fall in love with them nor to desire that which they should not, but there are some miserable apologies for men who are slaves to all sorts of passions, I think, and then they blame love. But the high-minded and the good, though they also have a desire for money and good horses and beautiful women, have the power to let all that alone so as not to touch anything beyond the limit of what is right. [15] At any rate,” he added, “I have seen this lady and though she seemed to me surpassingly beautiful, still I am here with you, I practise horsemanship, and I do everything else that it is my duty to do.” [16]

“Aye, by Zeus,” said Cyrus; “for you came away perhaps in less time than love takes, as its nature is, to get a man ensnared. For, you know, it is possible for a man to put his finger in the fire and not be burned at once, and wood does not burst at once into flame; still, for my part, I neither put my hand into the fire nor look upon the beautiful, if I can help it. And I advise you, too, Araspas,” said he, “not to let your eyes linger upon the fair; for fire, to be sure, burns only those who touch it, but beauty insidiously kindles a fire even in those who gaze upon it from afar, so that they are inflamed with passion.” [17]

“Never fear, Cyrus,” said he, “even if I never cease to look upon her, I shall never be so overcome as to do anything that I ought not.”

“Your professions,” said he, “are most excellent. Keep her then, as I bid you, and take good care of her; for this lady may perhaps be of very great service to us when the time comes.” [18]

After this conversation, then, they separated.8

And as the young man found the lady so beautiful and at the same time came to know her goodness and nobility of character, as he attended her and thought he pleased her, and then also as he saw that she was not ungrateful but always took care by the hands of her own servants not only that he should find whatever he needed when he came in, but that, if he ever fell sick, he should suffer no lack of attention—in consequence of all this, he fell desperately in love with her; and what happened to him was perhaps not at all surprising. Thus matters began to take this turn. [19]

Cyrus, however, wishing to have his Medes9 and allies stay with him voluntarily, called a meeting of all his staff-officers, and when they were come together he spoke as follows: [20] “Men of Media and all here present, I am very sure that you came out with me, not because you desired to get money by it nor because you thought that in this you were doing Cyaxares a service; but it was to me that you wished to do this favour, and it was out of regard for me that you were willing to make the night-march and to brave dangers with me. [21] For this also I thank you—I should be in the wrong not to do so; but I do not think that I am as yet in a position to make you an adequate return, and this I am not ashamed to say. But let me assure you,” said he, “that I should be ashamed to say ‘if you will stay with me, I will make you a proper return;’ for I think it would look as if I were saying it merely to make you more willing to stay with me. Instead of that, this is what I mean: even though you go back now in obedience to Cyaxares, still, if I achieve any success, I shall try so to act that you also will praise me. [22] For as to myself, I certainly am not going back, but I will be true to the oaths and the pledges which I gave the Hyrcanians, and I will never be caught playing them false; and I will also endeavour so to conduct myself that Gobryas, who is now offering us both his castle and his country and his forces, shall not repent his coming to us. [23] And above all, now that the gods are so manifestly blessing our efforts, I should fear to offend them, and I should be ashamed in their sight to go away without good reason and leave what they have bestowed. Thus, therefore, I propose to act,” said he; “and do you also do as you judge to be best, and tell me what your decision is.” [24]

Thus he spoke. And the first one to reply was10 the man who had once upon a time claimed to be a kinsman of Cyrus. “For my part, O my king,” said he—“for to me you seem to be a born king no less than is the sovereign of the bees in a hive. For as the bees always willingly obey the queen-bee and not one of them deserts the place where she stays; and as not one fails to follow her if she goes anywhere else—so marvellous a yearning to be ruled by her is innate to them; [25] so also do men seem to me to be drawn by something like the same sort of instinct toward you. And of that we have proof; for when you started to return from our country to11 Persia, what man of the Medes either young or old failed to follow you, until Astyages made us turn back? And when you hastened to our aid from Persia, we saw that almost all your friends followed with you of their own free will. Again, when you wished to come out on this expedition, all the Medes volunteered to follow you. [26] And now, too, this is our feeling, so that with you we are not afraid even in the enemy's land, while without you we are afraid even to return home. Now the rest may tell for themselves what they mean to do. But as for me, Cyrus, I, with the men whom I command, will remain with you and endure the sight of you and tolerate your goodness to us.” [27]

Following him, Tigranes spoke as follows: “Cyrus,” said he, “you need never be surprised when I fail to speak. For my mind has been disciplined not to offer counsel but to do what you command.” [28]

“Well, Medes,” said the Hyrcanian king, “if you should go away now, I should say that it was the plot of the evil one to prevent your becoming exceedingly blest. For, in all common sense, who would turn away from the enemy when they are in flight, or refuse to take their arms when they surrender them, or their persons and property when they offer them—especially under such a leader as we have? For, I swear to you by all the gods, he seems to me happier in doing us kindnesses than in enriching himself.” [29]

Following him, all the Medes spoke to this12 effect: “It is you, Cyrus, that have brought us out here, and when you think the time to return has come, lead us back with you.”

And when Cyrus heard that, he uttered this prayer: “Hear me, I beseech thee, O Zeus almighty, and grant that in service to them I may surpass the honour they show to me.” [30]

Thereupon he commanded the rest to station guards and after that to do for themselves whatever they pleased; and the Persians he bade divide the tents among themselves—to the cavalry the ones appropriate to their use and to the infantry such as sufficed for their needs—and to arrange matters so that the commissaries in the tents should do all that was required of them, prepare everything necessary, and carry it to the quarters of the Persians, and have their horses groomed and fed, and that the Persians should have no duty other than to practise the arts of war.

Thus they spent that day.

1 Cyrus's disposal of his prizes

2 I. iv. 26

3 Araspas describes Panthea

4 Cyrus declines to visit her

5 Araspas maintains that love is a matter of will

6 Cyrus maintains that it is a kind of slavery

7 Araspas claims that only the weakling is enslaved

8 He falls in love

9 Cyrus calls upon the Medes to answer Cyaxares

10 Artabazus leads the movement to stay I. iv. 27-28

11 I. iv. 25-28

12 The whole Median contingent stays with Cyrus

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1910)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Persia (Iran) (2)
Susa (Iran) (1)
Bactria (Afghanistan) (1)
Asia (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (4 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Ajax, 506
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Trachiniae, 311
  • Cross-references to this page (2):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: