Different Narratives of the Life of Cyrus

  July 24, 2021   Read time 4 min
Different Narratives of the Life of Cyrus
It is probable that " the son " of the Babylonian king who is described in the Annalistic Tablet as commanding the army in Northern Babylonia was Belshazzar, whose name occurs in several inscriptions. It is strange that no mention is mads of him in the final struggle with Cyrus, and it is therefore possible that he was killed in the battle near Sip

When Cyrus overthrew Istuvegu or Astyages he was still on good terms with Nabonidos. In an inscription found at Sippara Nabonidos states that Merodach had appeared to him in a dream, and had ordered him to rebuild the temple of the Moon-god at Harran, which had been destroyed by " the Manda " or Nomads of whom Astyages was king. Nabonidos objected that the Manda surrounded Harran, making any approach to it impossible ; whereupon the god assured him that within three years " the people of the Manda of whom thou speakest, they, their land, and the kings their allies, shall exist no more. In the third year when it shall arrive I will cau~e them to come, and Cyrus, the king of Anzan, their little servant, with his small army shall overthrow the wide- spread people of the Manda; Istuvegu the king of the people of the Manda he shall capture, and bring him a prisoner to his own country." All which duly came to pass, and Nabonidos subsequently restored the great temple of Harran.

It will be noticed that Istuvegu is called king of the Manda, and not of the Mada or Medes. It is clear, therefore, that the classical writers, in making Astyages king of the Medes, have been led into error by the similarity of the two names Manda and Mada. In the Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions they are however distinct from one another. The Mada or Medes were the tribes, partly Aryan, partly non-Aryan, who inhabited the mountains of Kurdistan and the country still further to the east, while the Manda meant " nomads." Teuspa or Teispes, the Cimmerian chief who was defeated by Esar-haddon and forced to march westward, is called a Manda ; so, too, is a later Cimmerian chief Tuktammu, who was driven beyond the frontiers of Assyria by the generals of Assur-banipal, the son and successor of Esar-haddon.

According to Herodotus, the invasion of Western Asia by the Cimmerians was followed by that of the Scyths, the Scyths for a while overthrowing the Median empire of Kyaxares, and making themselves masters of Ekbatana, the Median capital. All this seems to have been a confused echo of the actual history of events. It is probable that under the name of Manda the Assyrians and Babylonians included both the Cimmerians and the Scyths of classical story; at all events Ekbatana remained in the possession of the Manda, and Istuvegu or Astyages, instead of being a Median monarch, was really a chief of the Manda. His alleged relationship to Cyrus, however, is not at all impossible, since Teispes, as we have seen, was a leader of the Manda, and Teispes is a Persian name. It may be, therefore, that between the Persians and the Cimmerians there was an affinity of race.

Having united the "Medes and Persians," Cyrus at once contemplated making his empire the fore- most in Asia ; and for the first steps he took he had pretext enough to satisfy the conscience of any Asiatic chieftain. Without going into details on a portion of history well known to all readers of Herodotus and Xenophon, it is enough to state here that, owing to the invasion and ultimate repression of the horde of Cimmerian nomads from the North, a war of considerable dimensions had taken place a few years before between Asia Minor and " Media," in which the final struggle is said to have been stopped by the eclipse predicted by Thales.

The conquests of Cyrus naturally tended to fan the flame, and so much alarmed the then chief ruler in Asia Minor, Croesus of Lydia, that he was induced to seek the alliance of Greece, Egypt, and Babylon, though whether with the view of attacking Cyrus or of repelling an invasion by him, is not certain. On the other hand, Cyrus acted at once, and, with the decision of an able general, closed on the Lydian king before he could receive the sought-for aid, and thus put an end, in the briefest manner, to the separate existence of the kingdom of Croesus, who remained for more than thirty years the guest of himself and of successive Persian monarchs. Nor was this all ; the conquest of the rest of Asia Minor, by the aid of his Median generals Harpagus and Mazares, immediately followed, while we may believe that the proposed alliance of Croesus with Babylon and Egypt was not forgotten when Cyrus had leisure to turn against these powers his conquering legions.

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