Rule and Death of Cyrus the Great

  July 24, 2021   Read time 3 min
Rule and Death of Cyrus the Great
The next period of the life of Cyrus is involved in obscurity, and we know little more than that he was engaged in a series of wars, of the actual motives of which we are uninformed, with the Bactrians and other tribes of North-east Asia, which lasted for thirteen or fourteen years.

As Arrian however places a Cryopolis (elsewhere called Cyreschata) on the Jaxartes, we may presume that even Sogdiana fell under the sway of Cyrus. Again, as we find traces of him to the extreme north-east, as far as the territory, believed to be that of tha Sacae, and also to the south-east and south, in Seistan (Sacastene) and Khora'sa'n, we must suppose that, at various intervals, he overran the whole district between the Jaxartes on the north, the Indus on the east, and the Indian Ocean on the south. Perhaps too, as suggested by Professor Rawlinson, these wars really resembled the annual out-marches recorded of the kings of Assyria, rather than a sustained and continuous campaign of many years' duration.

At all events, when Cyrus died his empire was the most extensive that had yet existed in the East. He had succeeded to the heritage of the great powers which had previously ruled over Western Asia, Assyria, and Babylonia, and though Egypt still remained to be conquered, he had reduced under his sway countries which had been independent of the most powerful Assyrian and Babylonian kings. Not only was Asia Minor in the west subject to him, but he had subdued tribes and districts in the distant north and east, many of which had hardly been known even by name to his predecessors.

Of the rest of the life of Cyrus, we have no satisfac- tory account; but it is probable that he fell in a war with some of the tribes to the north-east of Asia, a conflict on the origin of which it is easy enough to speculate, as the wild tribes of that part of Asia, like other nomads, are almost always in a state of partial insurrection. Certain, however, it is, that he died B.C. 529, after a reign of twenty-nine years, while his remarkable tomb at Pasargadae, affords some evidence that his body was recovered and carried back to the centre of his kingdom or faith. Professor Rawlinson, justly remarks that "the character of Cyrus as represented to us by the Greeks, is the most favourable that we possess of any early Oriental monarch."

On the death of Cyrus, a conqueror rather than an administrator, his vast domains, mainly descended to his eldest son Cambyses, but Cyrus, at the same time, arranged that his second son, Bardes, or, as he is called n Greek history, Smerdis, should receive certain provinces as his patrimony; a plan, in itself sufficiently questionable, especially in an empire as yet scarcely organized, and one therefore promptly put an end to by Cambyses. Bardes, by his orders, was slain by Prexaspes at Susa, but in a manner so secret as to lead to the remarkable impersonation we shall presently notice.

The first act of Cambyses was to attempt the carry- ing out of his father's schemes for the conquest of Egypt ; so, to provoke a quarrel, he demanded of the weak king of Egypt his daughter as a second wife. Amasis complied with the request to the letter but not to the spirit, as, instead of his daughter, he sent another damsel, who is said herself to have revealed to Cambyses the imposition practised on him by the Egyptian monarch. This was alone a sufficient pretext for war ; but four years elapsed before Cambyses was able to secure the naval aid of Tyre and Cyprus.