HISTORY OF EGYPT CHALDEA, SYRIA, BABYLONIA, AND ASSYRIA
By G. MASPERO, Honorable Doctor of Civil Laws, and Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford; Member of the Institute and Professor at the College of France
Edited by A. H. SAYCE, Professor of Assyriology, Oxford
Translated by M. L. McCLURE, Member of the Committee of the Egypt Exploration Fund
CONTAINING OVER TWELVE HUNDRED COLORED PLATES AND ILLUSTRATIONS
THE GROLIER SOCIETY
THE IRANIAN CONQUEST
THE IRANIAN RELIGIONS—CYRUS IN LYDIA AND AT BABYLON; CAMBYSES IN EGYPT—DARIUS AND THE ORGANISATION OF THE EMPIRE.
The constitution of the Median empire borrowed from the ancient peoples of the Euphrates: its religion only is peculiar to itself—Legends concerning Zoroaster, his laws; the Avesta and its history—Elements contained in it of primitive religion—The supreme god Ahura-maza and his Amesha-spentas: the Yazatas, the Fravashis—Angro-mainyus and his agents, the Daivas, the Pairikas, their struggle with Ahura-mazda—The duties of man here below, funerals, his fate after death—-Worship and temples: fire-altars, sacrifices, the Magi.
Cyrus and the legends concerning his origin: his revolt against Astyages and the fall of the Median empire—The early years of the reign of Nabonidus: revolutions in Tyre, the taking of Harran—The end of the reign of Alyattes, Lydian art and its earliest coinage—Croesus, his relations with continental Greece, his conquests, his alliances with Babylon and Egypt—The war between Lydia and Persia: the defeat of the Lydians, the taking of Sardes, the death of Croesus and subsequent legends relating to it—The submission of the cities of the Asiatic littoral.
Cyrus in Bactriana and in the eastern regions of the Iranian table-land —The impression produced on the Chaldaean by his victories; the Jewish exiles, Ezekiel and his dreams of restoration, the new temple, the prophecies against Babylon; general discontent with Nabonidus—The attach of Cyrus and the battle of Zalzallat, the taking of Babylon and the fall of Nabonidus: the end of the Chaldaean empire and the deliverance of the Jews.
Egypt under Amasis: building works, support given to the Greeks; Naukratis, its temples, its constitution, and its prosperity—Preparations for defence and the unpopularity of Amasis with the native Egyptians—The death of Cyrus and legends relating to it: his palace at Pasargadae and his tomb—Cambyses and Smerdis—The legendary causes of the war with Egypt—Psammetichus III., the battle of Pelusium; Egypt reduced to a Persian province.
Cambyses' plans for conquest; the abortive expeditions to the oceans of Amnion and Carthage—The kingdom of Ethiopia, its kings, its customs: the Persians fail to reach Napata, the madness of Cambyses—The fraud of Gaumata, the death of Cambyses and the reign of the pseudo-Smerdis, the accession of Darius—The revolution in Susiana, Chaldaea, and Media: Nebuchadrezzar III. and the fall of Babylon, the death of Oraetes, the defeat of Khshatrita, restoration of peace throughout Asia, Egyptian affairs and the re-establishment of the royal power.
The organisation of the country and its division into satrapies: the satrap, the military commander, the royal secretary; couriers, main roads, the Eyes and Ears of the king—The financial system and the provincial taxes: the daric—Advantages and drawbacks of the system of division into satrapies; the royal guard and the military organisation of the empire—The conquest of the Hapta-Hindu and the prospect of war with Greece.
CHAPTER I—THE IRANIAN CONQUEST
Drawn by Boudier, from the engraving in Coste and Flandin. The vignette, drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a statuette in terra-cotta, found in Southern Russia, represents a young Scythian.
The Iranian religions—Cyrus in Lydia and at Babylon: Cambyses in Egypt —Darius and the organisation of the empire.
The Median empire is the least known of all those which held sway for a time over the destinies of a portion of Western Asia. The reason of this is not to be ascribed to the shortness of its duration: the Chaldaean empire of Nebuchadrezzar lasted for a period quite as brief, and yet the main outlines of its history can be established with some certainty in spite of large blanks and much obscurity. Whereas at Babylon, moreover, original documents abound, enabling us to put together, feature by feature, the picture of its ancient civilisation and of the chronology of its kings, we possess no contemporary monuments of Ecbatana to furnish direct information as to its history. To form any idea of the Median kings or their people, we are reduced to haphazard notices gleaned from the chroniclers of other lands, retailing a few isolated facts, anecdotes, legends, and conjectures, and, as these materials reach us through the medium of the Babylonians or the Greeks of the fifth or sixth century B.C., the picture which we endeavour to compose from them is always imperfect or out of perspective. We seemingly catch glimpses of ostentatious luxury, of a political and military organisation, and a method of government analogous to that which prevailed at later periods among the Persians, but more imperfect, ruder, and nearer to barbarism—a Persia, in fact, in the rudimentary stage, with its ruling spirit and essential characteristics as yet undeveloped. The machinery of state had doubtless been adopted almost in its entirety from the political organisations which obtained in the kingdoms of Assyria, Elam, and Chaldaea, with which sovereignties the founders of the Median empire had held in turns relations as vassals, enemies, and allies; but once we penetrate this veneer of Mesopotamian civilisation and reach the inner life of the people, we find in the religion they profess—mingled with some borrowed traits—a world of unfamiliar myths and dogmas of native origin.
The main outlines of this religion were already fixed when the Medes rose in rebellion against Assur-bani-pal; and the very name of Confessor—Fravartish—applied to the chief of that day, proves that it was the faith of the royal family. It was a religion common to all the Iranians, the Persians as well as the Medes, and legend honoured as its first lawgiver and expounder an ancient prophet named Zarathustra, known to us as Zoroaster.* Most classical writers relegated Zoroaster to some remote age of antiquity—thus he is variously said to have lived six thousand years before the death of Plato,** five thousand before the Trojan war,*** one thousand before Moses, and six hundred before Xerxes' campaign against Athens; while some few only affirmed that he had lived at a comparatively recent period, and made him out a disciple of the philosopher Pythagoras, who flourished about the middle of the fifth century B.C.
* The name Zarathustra has been interpreted in a score of different ways. The Greeks sometimes attributed to it the meaning "worshipper of the stars," probably by reason of the similarity in sound of the termination "-astres" of Zoroaster with the word "astron." Among modern writers, H. Rawlinson derived it from the Assyrian Ziru-Ishtar, "the seed of Ishtar," but the etymology now most generally accepted is that of Burnouf, according to which it would signify "the man with gold-coloured camels," the "possessor of tawny camels." The ordinary Greek form Zoroaster seems to be derived from some name quite distinct from Zarathustra.
** This was, as Pliny records, the opinion of Eudoxus; not Eudoxus of Cnidus, pupil of Plato, as is usually stated, but a more obscure personage, Eudoxus of Rhodes.
*** This was the statement of Hermodorus.
According to the most ancient national traditions, he was born in the Aryanem-vaejo, or, in other words, in the region between the Araxes and the Kur, to the west of the Caspian Sea. Later tradition asserted that his conception was attended by supernatural circumstances, and the miracles which accompanied his birth announced the advent of a saint destined to regenerate the world by the revelation of the True Law. In the belief of an Iranian, every man, every living creature now existing or henceforth to exist, not excluding the gods themselves, possesses a Frohar, or guardian spirit, who is assigned to him at his entrance into the world, and who is thenceforth devoted entirely to watching over his material and moral well-being,* About the time appointed for the appearance of the prophet, his Frohar was, by divine grace, imprisoned in the heart of a Haoma,** and was absorbed, along with the juice of the plant, by the priest Purushaspa,*** during a sacrifice, a ray of heavenly glory descending at the same time into the bosom of a maiden of noble race, named Dughdova, whom Purushaspa shortly afterwards espoused.
* The Fravashi (for fravarti, from fra-var, "to support, nourish"), or the frohar (feruer), is, properly speaking, the nurse, the genius who nurtures. Many of the practices relating to the conception and cult of the Fravashis seem to me to go back to the primitive period of the Iranian religions.
** The haoma is an Asclepias Sarcostema Viminalis.
*** The name signifies "He who has many horses."
Zoroaster was engendered from the mingling of the Frohar with the celestial ray. The evil spirit, whose supremacy he threatened, endeavoured to destroy him as soon as he saw the light, and despatched one of his agents, named Bouiti, from the country of the far north to oppose him; but the infant prophet immediately pronounced the formula with which the psalm for the offering of the waters opens: "The will of the Lord is the rule of good!" and proceeded to pour libations in honour of the river Dareja, on the banks of which he had been born a moment before, reciting at the same time the "profession of faith which puts evil spirits to flight." Bouiti fled aghast, but his master set to work upon some fresh device. Zoroaster allowed him, however, no time to complete his plans: he rose up, and undismayed by the malicious riddles propounded to him by his adversary, advanced against him with his hands full of stones—stones as large as a house—with which the good deity supplied him. The mere sight of him dispersed the demons, and they regained the gates of their hell in headlong flight, shrieking out, "How shall we succeed in destroying him? For he is the weapon which strikes down evil beings; he is the scourge of evil beings." His infancy and youth were spent in constant disputation with evil spirits: ever assailed, he ever came out victorious, and issued more perfect from each attack. When he was thirty years old, one of the good spirits, Vohumano, appeared to him, and conducted him into the presence of Ahura-mazda, the Supreme Being. When invited to question the deity, Zoroaster asked, "Which is the best of the creatures which are upon the earth?" The answer was, that the man whose heart is pure, he excels among his fellows. He next desired to know the names and functions of the angels, and the nature and attributes of evil. His instruction ended, he crossed a mountain of flames, and underwent a terrible ordeal of purification, during which his breast was pierced with a sword, and melted lead poured into his entrails without his suffering any pain: only after this ordeal did he receive from the hands of Ahura-mazda the Book of the Law, the Avesta, was then sent back to his native land bearing his precious burden. At that time, Vishtaspa, son of Aurvataspa, was reigning over Bactria. For ten years Zoroaster had only one disciple, his cousin Maidhyoi-Maonha, but after that he succeeded in converting, one after the other, the two sons of Hvogva, the grand vizir Jamaspa, who afterwards married the prophet's daughter, and Frashaoshtra, whose daughter Hvogvi he himself espoused; the queen, Hutaosa, was the next convert, and afterwards, through her persuasions, the king Vishtaspa himself became a disciple. The triumph of the good cause was hastened by the result of a formal disputation between the prophet and the wise men of the court: for three days they essayed to bewilder him with their captious objections and their magic arts, thirty standing on his right hand and thirty on his left, but he baffled their wiles, aided by grace from above, and having forced them to avow themselves at the end of their resources, he completed his victory by reciting the Avesta before them. The legend adds, that after rallying the majority of the people round him, he lived to a good old age, honoured of all men for his saintly life. According to some accounts, he was stricken dead by lightning,* while others say he was killed by a Turanian soldier, Bratrok-resh, in a war against the Hyaonas.
* This is, under very diverse forms, the version preferred by Western historians of the post-classical period.
The question has often been asked whether Zoroaster belongs to the domain of legend or of history. The only certain thing we know concerning him is his name; all the rest is mythical, poetic, or religious fiction. Classical writers attributed to him the composition or editing of all the writings comprised in Persian literature: the whole consisted, they said, of two hundred thousand verses which had been expounded and analysed by Hermippus in his commentaries on the secret doctrines of the Magi. The Iranians themselves averred that he had given the world twenty-one volumes—the twenty-one Nasks of the Avesta,* which the Supreme Deity had created from the twenty-one words of the Magian profession of faith, the Ahuna Vairya. King Vishtaspa is said to have caused two authentic copies of the Avesta—which contained in all ten or twelve hundred chapters**—to be made, one of which was consigned to the archives of the empire, the other laid up in the treasury of a fortress, either Shapigan, Shizigan, Samarcand, or Persepolis.***
* The word Avesta, in Pehlevi Apastak, whence come the Persian forms avasta, osta, is derived from the Achaemenian word Abasta, which signifies law in the inscriptions of Darius. The term Zend-Avesta, commonly used to designate the sacred book of the Persians, is incorrectly derived from the expression Apastac u Zend, which in Pehlevi designates first the law itself, and then the translation and commentary in more modern language which conduces to a knowledge (Zend) of the law. The customary application, therefore, of the name Zend to the language of the Avesta is incorrect.
** The Dinkart fixes the number of chapters at 1000, and the Shah-Namak at 1200, written on plates of gold. According to Masudi, the book itself and the two commentaries formed 12,000 volumes, written in letters of gold, the twenty-one Nasks each contained 200 pages, and the whole of these writings had been inscribed on 12,000 cow-hides.
*** The site of Shapigan or Shaspigan is unknown. J. Darmesteter suggests that it ought to be read as Shizigan, which would permit of the identification of the place with Shiz, one of the ancient religious centres of Iran, whose temple was visited by the Sassanids on their accession to the throne. According to the Arda-Viraf the law was preserved at Istakhr, or Persepolis, according to the Shah- Namak at Samarcand in the temple of the Fire-god.
Alexander is said to have burnt the former copy: the latter, stolen by the Greeks, is reported to have been translated into their language and to have furnished them with all their scientific knowledge. One of the Arsacids, Vologesus I., caused a search to be made for all the fragments which existed either in writing or in the memory of the faithful,* and this collection, added to in the reign of the Sassanid king, Ardashir Babagan, by the high priest Tansar, and fixed in its present form under Sapor I., was recognised as the religious code of the empire in the time of Sapor II., about the fourth century of the Christian era.*** The text is composed, as may be seen, of three distinct strata, which are by no means equally ancient;*** one can, nevertheless, make out from it with sufficient certainty the principal features of the religion and cult of Iran, such as they were under the Achaemenids, and perhaps even under the hegemony of the Medes.
* Tradition speaks simply of a King Valkash, without specifying which of the four kings named Vologesus is intended. James Darmesteter has given good reasons for believing that this Valkash is Vologesus I. (50-75 A.D.), the contemporary of Nero.
** This is the tradition reproduced in two versions of the Dinkart.
*** Darmesteter declares that ancient Zoroastrianism is, in its main lines, the religion of the Median Magi, even though he assigns the latest possible date to the composition of the Avesta as now existing, and thinks he can discern in it Greek, Jewish, and Christian elements.
It is a complicated system of religion, and presupposes a long period of development. The doctrines are subtle; the ceremonial order of worship, loaded with strict observances, is interrupted at every moment by laws prescribing minute details of ritual,* which were only put in practice by priests and strict devotees, and were unknown to the mass of the faithful.
* Renan defined the Avesta as "the Code of a very small religious sect; it is a Talmud, a book of casuistry and strict observance. I have difficulty in believing that the great Persian empire, which, at least in religious matters, professed a certain breadth of ideas, could have had a law so strict. I think, that had the Persians possessed a sacred book of this description, the Greeks must have mentioned it."
The primitive, base of this religion is difficult to discern clearly: but we may recognise in it most of those beings or personifications of natural phenomena which were the chief objects of worship among all the ancient nations of Western Asia—the stars, Sirius, the moon, the sun, water and fire, plants, animals beneficial to mankind, such as the cow and the dog, good and evil spirits everywhere present, and beneficent or malevolent souls of mortal men, but all systematised, graduated, and reduced to sacerdotal principles, according to the prescriptions of a powerful priesthood. Families consecrated to the service of the altar had ended, as among the Hebrews, by separating themselves from the rest of the nation and forming a special tribe, that of the Magi, which was the last to enter into the composition of the nation in historic times. All the Magi were not necessarily devoted to the service of religion, but all who did so devote themselves sprang from the Magian tribe; the Avesta, in its oldest form, was the sacred book of the Magi, as well as that of the priests who handed down their religious tradition under the various dynasties, native or foreign, who bore rule over Iran.
The Creator was described as "the whole circle of the heavens," "the most steadfast among the gods," for "he clothes himself with the solid vault of the firmament as his raiment," "the most beautiful, the most intelligent, he whose members are most harmoniously proportioned; his body was the light and the sovereign glory, the sun and the moon were his eyes." The theologians had gradually spiritualised the conception of this deity without absolutely disconnecting him from the material universe.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Flandin and Coste.
He remained under ordinary circumstances invisible to mortal eyes, and he could conceal his identity even from the highest gods, but he occasionally manifested himself in human form. He borrowed in such case from Assyria the symbol of Assur, and the sculptors depict him with the upper part of his body rising above that winged disk which is carved in a hovering attitude on the pediments of Assyrian monuments or stelae.
In later days he was portrayed under the form of a king of imposing stature and majestic mien, who revealed himself from time to time to the princes of Iran.*
* In a passage of Philo of Byblos the god is described as having the head of a falcon or an eagle, perhaps by confusion with one of the genii represented on the walls of the palaces.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph.
He was named Ahuro-mazdao or Ahura-mazda, the omniscient lord,* Spento-mainyus, the spirit of good, Mainyus-spenishto** the most beneficent of spirits.
* Ahura is derived from Ahu = Lord: Mazdao can be analysed into the component parts, maz = great, and dao = he who knows. At first the two terms were interchangeable, and even in the Gathas the form Mazda Ahura is employed much more often than the form Ahura Mazda. In the Achsemenian inscriptions, Auramazda is only found as a single word, except in an inscription of Xerxes, where the two terms are in one passage separated and declined Aurahya mazdaha. The form Ormuzd, Ormazd, usually employed by Europeans, is that assumed by the name in modern Persian.
** These two names are given to him more especially in connection with his antagonism to Angromainyus.
Himself uncreated, he is the creator of all things, but he is assisted in the administration of the universe by legions of beings, who are all subject to him.*
* Darius styles Ahura-mazda, mathishta baganam, the greatest of the gods, and Xerxes invokes the protection of Ahura-mazda along with that of the gods. The classical writers also mention gods alongside of Ahura-mazda as recognised not only among the Achaemenian Persians, but also among the Parthians. Darmesteter considers that the earliest Achaemenids worshipped Ahura-mazda alone, "placing the other gods together in a subordinate and anonymous group: May Ahura-mazda and the other gods protect me."
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Dieulafoy.
The most powerful among his ministers were originally nature-gods, such as the sun, the moon, the earth, the winds, and the waters. The sunny plains of Persia and Media afforded abundant witnesses of their power, as did the snow-clad peaks, the deep gorges through which rushed roaring torrents, and the mountain ranges of Ararat or Taurus, where the force of the subterranean fires was manifested by so many startling exhibitions of spontaneous conflagration.* The same spiritualising tendency which had already considerably modified the essential concept of Ahura-mazda, affected also that of the inferior deities, and tended to tone down in them the grosser traits of their character. It had already placed at their head six genii of a superior order, six ever-active energies, who, after assisting their master at the creation of the universe, now presided under his guidance over the kingdoms and forces of nature.**
* All these inferior deities, heroes, and genii who presided over Persia, the royal family, and the different parts of the empire, are often mentioned in the most ancient classical authors that have come down to us.
** The six Amesha-spentas, with their several characteristics, are enumerated in a passage of the De Iside. This exposition of Persian doctrine is usually attributed to Theopompus, from which we may deduce the existence of a belief in the Amesha-spentas in the Achsemenian period. J. Darmesteter affirms, on the contrary, that "the author describes the Zoro-astrianism of his own times (the second century A.D.), and quotes Theopompus for a special doctrine, that of the periods of the world's life." Although this last point is correct, the first part of Darmesteter's theory does not seem to me justified by investigation. The whole passage of Plutarch is a well- arranged composition of uniform style, which may be regarded as an exposition of the system described by Theopompus, probably in the eighth of his Philippics.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a coin of King Kanishka, published by Percy Gardner.
These benevolent and immortal beings—Amesha-spentas—were, in the order of precedence, Vohu-mano (good thought), Asha-vahista (perfect holiness), Khshathra-vairya (good government), Spenta-armaiti (meek piety), Haurvatat (health), Ameretat (immortality). Each of them had a special domain assigned to him in which to display his energy untrammelled: Vohu-mano had charge of cattle, Asha-vahista of fire, Khshathra-vairya of metals, Spenta-armaiti of the earth, Haurvatat and Ameretat of vegetation and of water. They were represented in human form, either masculine as Vohu-mano and Asha-vahista,* or feminine as Spenta-armaiti, the daughter and spouse of Ahura-mazda, who became the mother of the first man, Gayomaretan, and, through Gayomaretan, ancestress of the whole human race.
* The image of Asha-vahista is known to us from coins of the Indo-Scythian kings of Bactriana. Vohu-mano is described as a young man.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a coin of King Kanishka, published by Percy Gardner.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from coin published by Percy Gardner.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a coin of King Huvishka, published by Percy Gardner.
Sometimes Ahura-mazda is himself included among the Amesha-spentas, thus bringing their number up to seven; sometimes his place is taken by a certain Sraosha (obedience to the law), the first who offered sacrifice and recited the prayers of the ritual. Subordinate to these great spirits were the Yazatas, scattered by thousands over creation, presiding over the machinery of nature and maintaining it in working order. Most of them received no special names, but many exercised wide authority, and several were accredited by the people with an influence not less than that of the greater deities themselves. Such Were the regent of the stars—Tishtrya, the bull with golden horns, Sirius, the sparkling one; Mao, the moon-god; the wind, Vato; the atmosphere, Vayu, the strongest of the strong, the warrior with golden armour, who gathers the storm and hurls it against the demon; Atar, fire under its principal forms, divine fire, sacred fire, and earthly fire; Vere-thraghna, the author of war and giver of victory; Aurva-taspa, the son of the waters, the lightning born among the clouds; and lastly, the spirit of the dawn, the watchful Mithra, "who, first of the celestial Yazatas, soars above Mount Hara,* before the immortal sun with his swift steeds, who, first in golden splendour, passes over the beautiful mountains and casts his glance benign on the dwellings of the Aryans."**
* Hara is Haroberezaiti, or Elburz, the mountain over which the sun rises, "around which many a star revolves, where there is neither night nor darkness, no wind of cold or heat, no sickness leading to a thousand kinds of death, nor infection caused by the Daovas, and whose summit is never reached by the clouds."
** This is the Mithra whose religion became so powerful in Alexandrian and Roman times. His sphere of action is defined in the Bundehesh.
Mithra was a charming youth of beautiful countenance, his head surrounded with a radiant halo. The nymph Anahita was adored under the form of one of the incarnations of the Babylonian goddess Mylitta, a youthful and slender female, with well-developed breasts and broad hips, sometimes represented clothed in furs and sometimes nude.* Like the foreign goddess to whom she was assimilated, she was the dispenser of fertility and of love; the heroes of antiquity, and even Ahura-mazda himself, had vied with one another in their worship of her, and she had lavished her favours freely on all.**
* The popularity of these two deities was already well established at the period we are dealing with, for Herodotus mentions Mithra and confuses him with Anahita.
** Her name Ardvi-Sura Anahita seems to signify the lofty and immaculate power.
The less important Yazatas were hardly to be distinguished from the innumerable multitude of Fravashis. The Fravasliis are the divine types of all intelligent beings. They were originally brought into being by Ahura-mazda as a distinct species from the human, but they had allowed themselves to be entangled in matter, and to be fettered in the bodies of men, in order to hasten the final destruction of the demons and the advent of the reign of good.*
* The legend of the descent of the Fravashis to dwell among men is narrated in the Bundehesh.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Loftus
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a coin of King Huvishka, published by Percy Gardner.
Once incarnate, a Fravasliis devotes himself to the well-being of the mortal with whom he is associated; and when once more released from the flesh, he continues the struggle against evil with an energy whose efficacy is proportionate to the virtue and purity displayed in life by the mortal to whom he has been temporarily joined. The last six days of the year are dedicated to the Fravashis. They leave their heavenly abodes at this time to visit the spots which were their earthly dwelling-places, and they wander through the villages inquiring, "Who wishes to hire us? Who will offer us a sacrifice? Who will make us their own, welcome us, and receive us with plenteous offerings of food and raiment, with a prayer which bestows sanctity on him who offers it?" And if they find a man to hearken to their request, they bless him: "May his house be blessed with herds of oxen and troops of men, a swift horse and a strongly built chariot, a man who knoweth how to pray to God, a chieftain in the council who may ever offer us sacrifices with a hand filled with food and raiment, with a prayer which bestows sanctity on him who offers it!" Ahura-mazda created the universe, not by the work of his hands, but by the magic of his word, and he desired to create it entirely free from defects. His creation, however, can only exist by the free play and equilibrium of opposing forces, to which he gives activity: the incompatibility of tendency displayed by these forces, and their alternations of growth and decay, inspired the Iranians with the idea that they were the result of two contradictory principles, the one beneficent and good, the other adverse to everything emanating from the former.*
* Spiegel, who at first considered that the Iranian dualism was derived from polytheism, and was a preliminary stage in the development of monotheism, held afterwards that a rigid monotheism had preceded this dualism. The classical writers, who knew Zoroastrianism at the height of its glory, never suggested that the two principles might be derived from a superior principle, nor that they were subject to such a principle. The Iranian books themselves nowhere definitely affirm that there existed a single principle distinct from the two opposing principles.
In opposition to the god of light, they necessarily formed the idea of a god of darkness, the god of the underworld, who presides over death, Angro-mainyus. The two opposing principles reigned at first, each in his own domain, as rivals, but not as irreconcilable adversaries: they were considered as in fixed opposition to each other, and as having coexisted for ages without coming into actual conflict, separated as they were by the intervening void. As long as the principle of good was content to remain shut up inactive in his barren glory, the principle of evil slumbered unconscious in a darkness that knew no beginning; but when at last "the spirit who giveth increase"—Spento-mainyus—determined to manifest himself, the first throes of his vivifying activity roused from inertia the spirit of destruction and of pain, Angro-mainyus. The heaven was not yet in existence, nor the waters, nor the earth, nor ox, nor fire, nor man, nor demons, nor brute beasts, nor any living thing, when the evil spirit hurled himself upon the light to quench it for ever, but Ahura-mazda had already called forth the ministers of his will—Amesha-spentas, Yazatas, Fravashis—and he recited the prayer of twenty-one words in which all the elements of morality are summed up, the Ahuna-vairya: "The will of the Lord is the rule of good. Let the gifts of Vohu-mano be bestowed on the works accomplished, at this moment, for Mazda. He makes Ahura to reign, he who protects the poor." The effect of this prayer was irresistible: "When Ahura had pronounced the first part of the formula, Zanak Minoi, the spirit of destruction, bowed himself with terror; at the second part he fell upon his knees; and at the third and last he felt himself powerless to hurt the creatures of Ahura-mazda."*
* Theopompus was already aware of this alternation of good and bad periods. According to the tradition enshrined in the first chapter of the Bundehesh, it was the result of a sort of compact agreed upon at the beginning by Ahura-mazda and Angro-mainyus. Ahura-mazda, rearing to be overcome if he entered upon the struggle immediately, but sure of final victory if he could gain time, proposed to his adversary a truce of nine thousand years, at the expiration of which the battle should begin. As soon as the compact was made, Angro- mainyus realised that he had been tricked into taking a false step, but it was not till after three thousand years that he decided to break the truce and open the conflict.
The strife, kindled at the beginning of time between the two gods, has gone on ever since with alternations of success and defeat; each in turn has the victory for a regular period of three thousand years; but when these periods are ended, at the expiration of twelve thousand years, evil will be finally and for ever defeated. While awaiting this blessed fulness of time, as Spento-mainyus shows himself in all that is good and beautiful, in light, virtue, and justice, so Angro-mainyus is to be perceived in all that is hateful and ugly, in darkness, sin, and crime. Against the six Amesha-spentas he sets in array six spirits of equal power—Akem-mano, evil thought; Andra, the devouring fire, who introduces discontent and sin wherever he penetrates; Sauru, the flaming arrow of death, who inspires bloodthirsty tyrants, who incites men to theft and murder; Naongaithya, arrogance and pride; Tauru, thirst; and Zairi, hunger.*
* The last five of these spirits are enumerated in the Vendidad, and the first, Akem-mano, is there replaced by Nasu, the chief spirit of evil.
To the Yazatas he opposed the Daevas, who never cease to torment mankind, and so through all the ranks of nature he set over against each good and useful creation a counter-creation of rival tendency. "'Like a fly he crept into' and infected 'the whole universe.' He rendered the world as dark at full noonday as in the darkest night. He covered the soil with vermin, with his creatures of venomous bite and poisonous sting, with serpents, scorpions, and frogs, so that there was not a space as small as a needle's point but swarmed with his vermin. He smote vegetation, and of a sudden the plants withered.... He attacked the flames, and mingled them with smoke and dimness. The planets, with their thousands of demons, dashed against the vault of heaven and waged war on the stars, and the universe became darkened like a space which the fire blackens with its smoke." And the conflict grew ever keener over the world and over man, of whom the evil one was jealous, and whom he sought to humiliate.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph taken from the original bas-relief in glazed tiles in the Louvre.
Drawn by Boudier, from the photograph in Marcel Dieulafoy.
The children of Angro-mainyus disguised themselves under those monstrous forms in which the imagination of the Chaldaeans had clothed the allies of Mummu-Tiamat, such as lions with bulls' heads, and the wings and claws of eagles, which the Achaemenian king combats on behalf of his subjects, boldly thrusting them through with his short sword. Aeshma of the blood-stained lance, terrible in wrath, is the most trusted leader of these dread bands,* the chief of twenty other Daevas of repulsive aspect—Asto-vidhotu, the demon of death, who would devote to destruction the estimable Fravashis;** Apaosha, the enemy of Tishtrya the wicked black horse, the bringer of drought, who interferes with the distribution of the fertilising waters; and Buiti, who essayed to kill Zoroaster at his birth.***
* The name Aeshma means anger. He is the Asmodeus, Aeshmo- daevo, of Rabbinic legends.
** The name of this demon signifies He who separates the bones.
*** The Greater Bundehesh connects the demon Buiti with the Indian Buddha, and J. Darmestefer seems inclined to accept this interpretation. In this case we must either admit that the demon Buiti is of relatively late origin, or that he has, in the legend of Zoroaster, taken the place of a demon whose name resembled his own closely enough to admit of the assimilation.
The female demons, the Bruges, the Incubi (Yatus), the Succubi (Pairika), the Peris of our fairy tales, mingled familiarly with mankind before the time of the prophet, and contracted with them fruitful alliances, but Zoroaster broke up their ranks, and prohibited them from becoming incarnate in any form but that of beasts; their hatred, however, is still unquenched, and their power will only be effectually overthrown at the consummation of time. It is a matter of uncertainty whether the Medes already admitted the possibility of a fresh revelation, preparing the latest generations of mankind for the advent of the reign of good. The traditions enshrined in the sacred books of Iran announce the coming of three prophets, sons of Zoroaster —Ukhshyatereta, Ukhshyatnemo, and Saoshyant* —who shall bring about universal salvation.
* The legend ran that they had been conceived in the waters of the lake Kansu. The name Saoshyant signifies the useful one, the saviour; Ukshyate-reta, he who malces the good increase; Ukshyatnemo, he who makes prayer increase.
Saoshyant, assisted by fifteen men and fifteen pure women, who have already lived on earth, and are awaiting their final destiny in a magic slumber, shall offer the final sacrifice, the virtue of which shall bring about the resurrection of the dead. "The sovereign light shall accompany him and his friends, when he shall revivify the world and ransom it from old age and death, from corruption and decay, and shall render it eternally living, eternally growing, and master of itself." The fatal conflict shall be protracted, but the champions of Saoshyant shall at length obtain the victory. "Before them shall bow Aeshma of the blood-stained lance and of ominous renown, and Saoshyant shall strike down the she-demon of the unholy light, the daughter of darkness. Akem-mano strikes, but Vohu-mano shall strike him in his turn; the lying word shall strike, but the word of truth shall strike him in his turn; Haurvatat and Ameretafc shall strike down hunger and thirst; Haurvatat and Ameretat shall strike down terrible hunger and terrible thirst." Angro-mainyus himself shall be paralysed with terror, and shall be forced to confess the supremacy of good: he shall withdraw into the depths of hell, whence he shall never again issue forth, and all the reanimated beings devoted to the Mazdean law shall live an eternity of peace and contentment.
Man, therefore, incessantly distracted between the two principles, laid wait for by the Baevas, defended by the Yazatas, must endeavour to act according to law and justice in the condition in which fate has placed him. He has been raised up here on earth to contribute as far as in him lies to the increase of life and of good, and in proportion as he works for this end or against it, is he the ashavan, the pure, the faithful one on earth and the blessed one in heaven, or the anashavan, the lawless miscreant who counteracts purity. The highest grade in the hierarchy of men belongs of right to the Mage or the athravan, to the priest whose voice inspires the demons with fear, or the soldier whose club despatches the impious, but a place of honour at their side is assigned to the peasant, who reclaims from the power of Angro-mainyus the dry and sterile fields. Among the places where the earth thrives most joyously is reckoned that "where a worshipper of Ahura-mazda builds a house, with a chaplain, with cattle, with a wife, with sons, with a fair flock; where man grows the most corn, herbage, and fruit trees; where he spreads water on a soil without water, and drains off water where there is too much of it." He who sows corn, sows good, and promotes the Mazdean faith; "he nourishes the Mazdean religion as fifty men would do rocking a child in the cradle, five hundred women giving it suck from their breasts.* When the corn was created the Daevas leaped, when it sprouted the Daevas lost courage, when the stem set the Daevas wept, when the ear swelled the Daevas fled. In the house where corn is mouldering the Daevas lodge, but when the corn sprouts, one might say that a hot iron is being turned round in their mouths." And the reason of their horror is easily divined: "Whoso eats not, has no power either to accomplish a valiant work of religion, or to labour with valour, or yet to beget children valiantly; it is by eating that the universe lives, and it dies from not eating." The faithful follower of Zoroaster owes no obligation towards the impious man or towards a stranger,** but is ever bound to render help to his coreligionist.
* The original text says in a more enigmatical fashion, "he nourishes the religion of Mazda as a hundred feet of men and a thousand breasts of women might do."
** Charity is called in Parsee language, asho-dad the gift to a pious man, or the gift of piety, and the pious man, the ashavan, is by definition the worshipper of Ahura-mazda alone.
He will give a garment to the naked, and by so doing will wound Zemaka, the demon of winter. He will never refuse food to the hungry labourer, under pain of eternal torments, and his charity will extend even to the brute beasts, provided that they belong to the species created by Ahura-mazda: he has duties towards them, and their complaints, heard in heaven, shall be fatal to him later on if he has provoked them. Asha-vahista will condemn to hell the cruel man who has ill-treated the ox, or allowed his flocks to suffer; and the killing of a hedgehog is no less severely punished—for does not a hedgehog devour the ants who steal the grain? The dog is in every case an especially sacred animal—the shepherd's dog, the watchdog, the hunting-dog, even the prowling dog. It is not lawful to give any dog a blow which renders him impotent, or to slit his ears, or to cut his foot, without incurring grave responsibilities in this world and in the next; it is necessary to feed the dog well, and not to throw bones to him which are too hard, nor have his food served hot enough to burn his tongue or his throat. For the rest, the faithful Zoroastrian was bound to believe in his god, to offer to him the orthodox prayers and sacrifices, to be simple in heart, truthful, the slave of his pledged word, loyal in his very smallest acts. If he had once departed from the right way, he could only return to it by repentance and by purification, accompanied by pious deeds: to exterminate noxious animals, the creatures of Angro-mainyus and the abode of his demons, such as the frog, the scorpion, the serpent or the ant, to clear the sterile tracts, to restore impoverished land, to construct bridges over running water, to distribute implements of husbandry to pions men, or to build them a house, to give a pure and healthy maiden in marriage to a just man,—these were so many means of expiation appointed by the prophet.* Marriage was strictly obligatory,** and seemed more praiseworthy in proportion as the kinship existing between the married pair was the closer: not only was the sister united in marriage to her brother, as in Egypt, but the father to his daughter, and the mother to her son, at least among the Magi.
* A passage in the Vendidad even enumerates how many noisome beasts must be slain to accomplish one full work of expiation—"to kill 1000 serpents of those who drag themselves upon the belly, and 2000 of the other species, 1000 land frogs or 2000 water frogs, 1000 ants who steal the grain," and so on.
** The Vendidad says, "And I tell thee, O Spitama Zarathustra, the man who has a wife is above him who lives in continency;" and, as we have seen in the text, one of these forms of expiation consisted in "marrying to a worthy man a young girl who has never known a man" (Vendidad, 14, Sec. 15). Herodotus of old remarked that one of the chief merits in an Iranian was to have many children: the King of Persia encouraged fecundity in his realm, and awarded a prize each year to that one of his subjects who could boast the most numerous progeny.
Polygamy was also encouraged and widely practised: the code imposed no limit on the number of wives and concubines, and custom was in favour of a man's having as many wives as his fortune permitted him to maintain. On the occasion of a death, it was forbidden to burn the corpse, to bury it, or to cast it into a river, as it would have polluted the fire, the earth, or the water—an unpardonable offence. The corpse could be disposed of in different ways. The Persians were accustomed to cover it with a thick layer of wax, and then to bury it in the ground: the wax coating obviated the pollution which direct contact would have brought upon the soil. The Magi, and probably also strict devotees, following their example, exposed the corpse in the open air, abandoning it to the birds or beasts of prey. It was considered a great misfortune if these respected the body, for it was an almost certain indication of the wrath of Ahura-mazda, and it was thought that the defunct had led an evil life. When the bones had been sufficiently stripped of flesh, they were collected together, and deposited either in an earthenware urn or in a stone ossuary with a cover, or in a monumental tomb either hollowed out in the heart of the mountain or in the living rock, or raised up above the level of the ground. Meanwhile the soul remained in the neighbourhood for three days, hovering near the head of the corpse, and by the recitation of prayers it experienced, according to its condition of purity or impurity, as much of joy or sadness as the whole world experiences. When the third night was past, the just soul set forth across luminous plains, refreshed by a perfumed breeze, and its good thoughts and words and deeds took shape before it "under the guise of a young maiden, radiant and strong, with well-developed bust, noble mien, and glorious face, about fifteen years of age, and as beautiful as the most beautiful;" the unrighteous soul, on the contrary, directed its course towards the north, through a tainted land, amid the squalls of a pestilential hurricane, and there encountered its past ill deeds, under the form of an ugly and wicked young woman, the ugliest and most wicked it had ever seen. The genius Rashnu Razishta, the essentially truthful, weighed its virtues or vices in an unerring balance, and acquitted or Condemned it on the impartial testimony of its past life. On issuing from the judgment-hall, the soul arrived at the approach to the bridge Cinvaut, which, thrown across the abyss of hell, led to paradise. The soul, if impious, was unable to cross this bridge, but was hurled down into the abyss, where it became the slave of Angro-mainyus. If pure, it crossed the bridge without difficulty by the help of the angel Sraosha, and was welcomed by Vohu-mano, who conducted it before the throne of Ahura-mazda, in the same way as he had led Zoroaster, and assigned to it the post which it should occupy until the day of the resurrection of the body.*
* All this picture of the fate of the soul is taken from the Vendidad, where the fate of the just is described, and in the Yasht, where the condition of faithful and impious souls respectively is set forth on parallel lines. The classical authors teach us nothing on this subject, and the little they actually say only proves that the Persians believed in the immortality of the soul. The main outlines of the picture here set forth go back to the times of the Achaemenids and the Medes, except the abstract conception of the goddess who leads the soul of the dead as an incarnation of his good or evil deeds.
The religious observances enjoined on the members of the priestly caste were innumerable and minute. Ahura-mazda and his colleagues had not, as was the fashion among the Assyrians and Egyptians, either temples or tabernacles, and though they were represented sometimes under human or animal forms, and even in some cases on bas-reliefs, yet no one ever ventured to set up in their sanctuaries those so-called animated or prophetic statues to which the majority of the nations had rendered or were rendering their solicitous homage. Altars, however, were erected on the tops of hills, in palaces, or in the centre of cities, on which fires were kindled in honour of the inferior deities or of the supreme god himself.
Drawn by Boudier, from a heliogravure in Marcel Dieulafoy.
Two altars were usually set up together, and they are thus found here and there among the ruins, as at Nakhsh-i-Kustem, the necropolis of Persepolis, where a pair of such altars exist; these are cut, each out of a single block, in a rocky mass which rises some thirteen feet above the level of the surrounding plain. They are of cubic form and squat appearance, looking like towers flanked at the four corners by supporting columns which are connected by circular arches; above a narrow moulding rises a crest of somewhat triangular projections; the hearth is hollowed out on the summit of each altar.*
* According to Perrot and Chipiez, "it is not impossible that these altars were older than the great buildings of Persepolis, and that they were erected for the old Persian town which Darius raised to the position of capital."
At Meshed-i-Murgab, on the site of the ancient Pasargadas, the altars have disappeared, but the basements on which they were erected are still visible, as also the flight of eight steps by which they were approached. Those altars on which burned, a perpetual fire were not left exposed to the open air: they would have run too great a risk of contracting impurities, such as dust borne by the wind, flights of birds, dew, rain, or snow. They were enclosed in slight structures, well protected by walls, and attaining in some cases considerable dimensions, or in pavilion-shaped edifices of stone adorned with columns.
Drawn by Boudier, from Plandin and Coste.
The sacrificial rites were of long duration, and frequent, and were rendered very complex by interminable manual acts, ceremonial gestures, and incantations.
In cases where the altar was not devoted to maintaining a perpetual fire, it was kindled when necessary with small twigs previously barked and purified, and was subsequently fed with precious woods, preferably cypress or laurel;* care was taken not to quicken the flame by blowing, for the human breath would have desecrated the fire by merely passing over it; death was the punishment for any one who voluntarily committed such a heinous sacrilege. The recognised offering consisted of flowers, bread, fruit, and perfumes, but these were often accompanied, as in all ancient religions, by a bloody sacrifice; the sacrifice of a horse was considered the most efficacious, but an ox, a cow, a sheep, a camel, an ass, or a stag was frequently offered: in certain circumstances, especially when it was desired to conciliate the favour of the god of the underworld, a human victim, probably as a survival of very ancient rites was preferred.**
* Pausanias, who witnessed the cult as practised at Hierocaesarsea, remarked the curious colour of the ashes heaped upon the altar.
* Most modern writers deny the authenticity of Herodotus' account, because a sacrifice of this kind is opposed to the spirit of the Magian religion, which is undoubtedly the case, as far as the latest form of the religion is concerned; but the testimony of Herodotus is so plain that the fact itself must be considered as indisputable. We may note that the passage refers to the foundation of a city; and if we remember how persistent was the custom of human sacrifice among ancient races at the foundation of buildings, we shall be led to the conclusion that the ceremony described by the Greek historian was a survival of a very ancient usage, which had not yet fallen entirely into desuetude at the Achaemenian epoch.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the impression of a Persian intaglio.
The king, whose royal position made him the representative of Ahura-mazda on earth, was, in fact, a high priest, and was himself able to officiate at the altar, but no one else could dispense with the mediation of the Magi. The worshippers proceeded in solemn procession to the spot where the ceremony was to take place, and there the priest, wearing the tiara on his head, recited an invocation in a slow and mysterious voice, and implored the blessings of heaven on the king and nation. He then slaughtered the victim by a blow on the head, and divided it into portions, which he gave back to the offerer without reserving any of them, for Ahura-mazda required nothing but the soul; in certain cases, the victim was entirely consumed by fire, but more frequently nothing but a little of the fat and some of the entrails were taken to feed and maintain the flame, and sometimes even this was omitted.* Sacrifices were of frequent occurrence. Without mentioning the extraordinary occasions on which a king would have a thousand bulls slain at one time,** the Achaemenian kings killed each day a thousand bullocks, asses, and stags: sacrifice under such circumstances was another name for butchery, the object of which was to furnish the court with a sufficient supply of pure meat. The ceremonial bore resemblance in many ways to that still employed by the modern Zoroastrians of Persia and India.
* A relic of this custom may be discerned in the expiatory sacrifice decreed in the Vendidad: "He shall sacrifice a thousand head of small cattle, and he shall place their entrails devoutly on the fire, with libations."
** The number 1000 seems to have had some ritualistic significance, for it often recurs in the penances imposed on the faithful as expiation for their sins: thus it was enjoined to slay 1000 serpents, 1000 frogs, 1000 ants who steal the grain, 1000 head of small cattle, 1000 swift horses, 1000 camels, 1000 brown oxen.
The officiating priest covered his mouth with the bands which fell from his mitre, to prevent the god from being polluted by his breath; he held in his hand the baresman, or sacred bunch of tamarisk, and prepared the mysterious liquor from the haoma plant.* He was accustomed each morning to celebrate divine service before the sacred fire, not to speak of the periodic festivals in which he shared the offices with all the members of his tribe, such as the feast of Mithra, the feast of the Fravashis,** the feast commemorating the rout of Angro-mainyus,*** the feast of the Saksea, during which the slaves were masters of the house.****
* The drink mentioned by the author of the De Iside, which was extracted from the plant Omomi, and which the Magi offered to the god of the underworld, is certainly the haoma. The rite mentioned by the Greek author, which appears to be an incantation against Ahriman, required, it seems, a potion in which the blood of a wolf was a necessary ingredient: this questionable draught was then carried to a place where the sun's rays never shone, and was there sprinkled on the ground as a libation.
** Menander speaks of this festival as conducted in his own times, and tells us that it was called Eurdigan; modern authorities usually admit that it goes back to the times of the Achaemenids or even beyond.
*** Agathias says that every worshipper of Ahura-mazda is enjoined to kill the greatest possible number of animals created by Angro-mainyus, and bring to the Magi the fruits of his hunting. Herodotus had already spoken of this destruction of life as one of the duties incumbent on every Persian, and this gives probability to the view of modern writers that the festival went back to the Achaemenian epoch.
**** The festival of the Sakoa is mentioned by Ctesias. It was also a Babylonian festival, and most modern authorities conclude from this double use of the name that the festival was borrowed from the Babylonians by the Persians, but this point is not so certain as it is made out to be, and at any rate the borrowing must have taken place very early, for the festival was already well established in the Achaemenian period.
All the Magi were not necessarily devoted to the priesthood; but those only became apt in the execution of their functions who had been dedicated to them from infancy, and who, having received the necessary instruction, were duly consecrated. These adepts were divided into several classes, of which three at least were never confounded in their functions—the sorcerers, the interpreters of dreams, and the most venerated sages—and from these three classes were chosen the ruling body of the order and its supreme head. Their rule of life was strict and austere, and was encumbered with a thousand observances indispensable to the preservation of perfect purity in their persons, their altars, their victims, and their sacrificial vessels and implements. The Magi of highest rank abstained from every form of living thing as food, and the rest only partook of meat under certain restrictions. Their dress was unpretentious, they wore no jewels, and observed strict fidelity to the marriage vow;* and the virtues with which they were accredited obtained for them, from very early times, unbounded influence over the minds of the common people as well as over those of the nobles: the king himself boasted of being their pupil, and took no serious step in state affairs without consulting Ahura-mazda or the other gods by their mediation. The classical writers maintain that the Magi often cloaked monstrous vices under their apparent strictness, and it is possible that this was the case in later days, but even then moral depravity was probably rather the exception than the rule among them:*** the majority of the Magi faithfully observed the rules of honest living and ceremonial purity enjoined on them in the books handed down by their ancestors.
* Clement of Alexandria assures us that they were strictly celibate, but besides the fact that married Magi are mentioned several times, celibacy is still considered by Zoroastrians an inferior state to that of marriage.
** In the Greek period, a spurious epitaph of Darius, son of Hystaspes, was quoted, in which the king says of himself, "I was the pupil of the Magi."
*** These accusations are nearly all directed against their incestuous marriages: it seems that the classical writers took for a refinement of debauchery what really was before all things a religious practice.
There is reason to believe that the Magi were all-powerful among the Medes, and that the reign of Astyages was virtually the reign of the priestly caste; but all the Iranian states did not submit so patiently to their authority, and the Persians at last proved openly refractory. Their kings, lords of Susa as well as of Pasargadse, wielded all the resources of Elam, and their military power must have equalled, if it did not already surpass, that of their suzerain lords. Their tribes, less devoted to the manner of living of the Assyrians and Chaldaeans, had preserved a vigour and power of endurance which the Medes no longer possessed; and they needed but an ambitious and capable leader, to rise rapidly from the rank of subjects to that of rulers of Iran, and to become in a short time masters of Asia. Such a chief they found in Cyrus,* son of Cambyses; but although no more illustrious name than his occurs in the list of the founders of mighty empires, the history of no other has suffered more disfigurement from the imagination of his own subjects or from the rancour of the nations he had conquered.**
* The original form of the name is Kuru, Kurush, with a long o, which forces us to reject the proposed connection with the name of the Indian hero Kuru, in which the u is short. Numerous etymologies of the name Cyrus have been proposed. The Persians themselves attributed to it the sense of the Sun.
** We possess two entirely different versions of the history of the origin of Cyrus, but one, that of Herodotus, has reached us intact, while that of Ctesias is only known to us in fragments from extracts made by Nicolas of Damascus, and by Photius. Spiegel and Duncker thought to recognise in the tradition followed by Ctesias one of the Persian accounts of the history of Cyrus, but Bauer refuses to admit this hypothesis, and prefers to consider it as a romance put together by the author, according to the taste of his own times, from facts partly different from those utilised by Herodotus, and partly borrowed from Herodotus himself: but it should very probably be regarded as an account of Median origin, in which the founder of the Persian empire is portrayed in the most unfavourable light. Or perhaps it may be regarded as the form of the legend current among the Pharnaspids who established themselves as satraps of Dascylium in the time of the Achaemenids, and to whom the royal house of Cappadocia traced its origin. It is almost certain that the account given by Herodotus represents a Median version of the legend, and, considering the important part played in it by Harpagus, probably that version which was current among the descendants of that nobleman. The historian Dinon, as far as we can judge from the extant fragments of his work, and from the abridgment made by Trogus Pompeius, adopted the narrative of Ctesias, mingling with it, however, some details taken from Herodotus and the romance of Xenophon, the Cyropodia.
The Medes, who could not forgive him for having made them subject to their ancient vassals, took delight in holding him up to scorn, and not being able to deny the fact of his triumph, explained it by the adoption of tortuous and despicable methods. They would not even allow that he was of royal birth, but asserted that he was of ignoble origin, the son of a female goatherd and a certain Atradates,* who, belonging to the savage clan of the Mardians, lived by brigandage. Cyrus himself, according to this account, spent his infancy and early youth in a condition not far short of slavery, employed at first in sweeping out the exterior portions of the palace, performing afterwards the same office in the private apartments, subsequently promoted to the charge of the lamps and torches, and finally admitted to the number of the royal cupbearers who filled the king's goblet at table.
* According to one of the historians consulted by Strabo, Cyrus himself, and not his father, was called Atradates.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the silver vase in the Museum of the Hermitage.
When he was at length enrolled in the bodyguard,* he won distinction by his skill in all military exercises, and having risen from rank to rank, received command of an expedition against the Cadusians.
* The tradition reproduced by Dinon narrated that Cyrus had begun by serving among the Kavasses, the three hundred staff-bearers who accompanied the sovereign when he appeared in public, and that he passed next into the royal body- guard, and that once having attained this rank, he passed rapidly through all the superior grades of the military profession.
On the march he fell in with a Persian groom named OEbaras,* who had been cruelly scourged for some misdeed, and was occupied in the transportation of manure in a boat: in obedience to an oracle the two united their fortunes, and together devised a vast scheme for liberating their compatriots from the Median yoke.
* This OEbaras whom Ctesias makes the accomplice of Cyrus, seems to be an antedated forestallment of theoebaras whom the tradition followed by Herodotus knows as master of the horse under Darius, and to whom that king owed his elevation to the throne.
How Atradates secretly prepared the revolt of the Mardians; how Cyrus left his camp to return to the court at Ecbatana, and obtained from Astyages permission to repair to his native country under pretext of offering sacrifices, but in reality to place himself at the head of the conspirators; how, finally, the indiscretion of a woman revealed the whole plot to a eunuch of the harem, and how he warned Astyages in the middle of his evening banquet by means of a musician or singing-girl, was frequently narrated by the Median bards in their epic poems, and hence the story spread until it reached in later times even as far as the Greeks.*
* According to Ctesias, it was a singing-girl who revealed the existence of the plot to Astyages; according to Dinon, it was the bard Angares. Windischmann has compared this name with that of the Vedic guild of singers, the Angira.
Astyages, roused to action by the danger, abandons the pleasures of the chase in which his activity had hitherto found vent, sets out on the track of the rebel, wins a preliminary victory on the Hyrba, and kills the father of Cyrus: some days after, he again overtakes the rebels, at the entrance to the defiles leading to Pasargadse, and for the second time fortune is on the point of declaring in his favour, when the Persian women, bringing back their husbands and sons to the conflict, urge them on to victory. The fame of their triumph having spread abroad, the satraps and provinces successfully declared for the conqueror; Hyrcania, first, followed by the Parthians, the Sakae, and the Bactrians: Astyages was left almost alone, save for a few faithful followers, in the palace at Ecbatana. His daughter Amytis and his son-in-law Spitamas concealed him so successfully on the top of the palace, that he escaped discovery up to the moment when Cyrus was on the point of torturing his grandchildren to force them to reveal his hiding-place: thereupon he gave himself up to his enemies, but was at length, after being subjected to harsh treatment for a time, set at liberty and entrusted with the government of a mountain tribe dwelling to the south-east of the Caspian Sea, that of the Barcanians. Later on he perished through the treachery of OEbaras, and his corpse was left unburied in the desert, but by divine interposition relays of lions were sent to guard it from the attacks of beasts of prey: Cyrus, acquainted with this miraculous circumstance, went in search of the body and gave it a magnificent burial.* Another legend asserted, on the contrary, that Cyrus was closely connected with the royal line of Cyaxares; this tradition was originally circulated among the great Median families who attached themselves to the Achaemenian dynasty.**
* The passage in Herodotus leads Marquart to believe that the murder of Astyages formed part of the primitive legend, but was possibly attributed to Cambysos, son of Cyrus, rather than to OEbaras, the companion of the conqueror's early years.
** This is the legend as told to Herodotus in Asia Minor, probably by the members of the family of Harpagus, which the Greek historian tried to render credible by interpreting the miraculous incidents in a rationalising manner.
Drawn by Boudier, from Coste and Flandin.
According to this legend Astyages had no male heirs, and the sceptre would have naturally descended from him to his daughter Mandane and her sons. Astyages was much alarmed by a certain dream concerning his daughter: he dreamt that water gushed forth so copiously from her womb as to flood not only Ecbatana, but the whole of Asia, and the interpreters, as much terrified as himself, counselled him not to give Mandane in marriage to a Persian noble of the race of the Achaemenids, named Cambyses; but a second dream soon troubled the security into which this union had lulled him: he saw issuing from his daughter's womb a vine whose branches overshadowed Asia, and the interpreters, being once more consulted, predicted that a grandson was about to be born to him whose ambition would cost him his crown. He therefore bade a certain nobleman of his court, named Harpagus—he whose descendants preserved this version of the story of Cyrus—to seize the infant and put it to death as soon as its mother should give it birth; but the man, touched with pity, caused the child to be exposed in the woods by one of the royal shepherds. A bitch gave suck to the tiny creature, who, however, would soon have succumbed to the inclemency of the weather, had not the shepherd's wife, being lately delivered of a still-born son, persuaded her husband to rescue the infant, whom she nursed with the same tenderness as if he had been her own child. The dog was, as we know, a sacred animal among the Iranians: the incident of the bitch seems, then, to have been regarded by them as an indication of divine intervention, but the Greeks were shocked by the idea, and invented an explanation consonant with their own customs. They supposed that the woman had borne the name of Spako: Spako signifying bitch in the language of Media.*
* Herodotus asserts that the child's foster-mother was called in Greek Kyno, in Median Spalco, which comes to the same thing, for spaha means bitch in Median. Further on he asserts that the parents of the child heard of the name of his nurse with joy, as being of good augury; "and, in order that the Persians might think that Cyrus had been preserved alive by divine agency, they spread abroad the report that Cyrus had been suckled by a bitch. And thus arose the fable commonly accepted." Trogus Pompeius received the original story probably through Dinon, and inserted it in his book.
Cyrus grew to boyhood, and being accepted by Mandane as her son, returned to the court; his grandfather consented to spare his life, but, to avenge himself on Harpagus, he caused the limbs of the nobleman's own son to be served up to him at a feast. Thenceforth Harpagus had but one idea, to overthrow the tyrant and transfer the crown to the young prince: his project succeeded, and Cyrus, having overcome Astyages, was proclaimed king by the Medes as well as by the Persians. The real history of Cyrus, as far as we can ascertain it, was less romantic. We gather that Kurush, known to us as Cyrus, succeeded his father Cambyses as ruler of Anshan about 559 or 558 B.C.,* and that he revolted against Astyages in 553 or 552 B.C.,** and defeated him. The Median army thereupon seizing its own leader, delivered him into the hands of the conqueror: Ecbatana was taken and sacked, and the empire fell at one blow, or, more properly speaking, underwent a transformation (550 B.C.). The transformation was, in fact, an internal revolution in which the two peoples of the same race changed places. The name of the Medes lost nothing of the prestige which it enjoyed in foreign lands, but that of the Persians was henceforth united with it, and shared its renown: like Astyages and his predecessors, Cyrus and his successors reigned equally over the two leading branches of the ancient Iranian stock, but whereas the former had been kings of the Medes and Persians, the latter became henceforth kings of the Persians and Medes.***
* The length of Cyrus' reign is fixed at thirty years by Ctesias, followed by Dinon and Trogus Pompeius, but at twenty-nine years by Herodotus, whose computation I here follow. Hitherto the beginning of his reign has been made to coincide with the fall of Astyages, which was consequently placed in 569 or 568 B.C., but the discovery of the Annals of Nabonidus obliges us to place the taking of Ecbatana in the sixth year of the Babylonian king, which corresponds to the year 550 B.C., and consequently to hold that Cyrus reckoned his twenty-nine years from the moment when he succeeded his father Cambyses.
** The inscription on the Rassam Cylinder of Abu-Habba, seems to make the fall of the Median king, who was suzerain of the Scythians of Harran, coincide with the third year of Nabonidus, or the year 553-2 B.C. But it is only the date of the commencement of hostilities between Cyrus and Astyages which is here furnished, and this manner of interpreting the text agrees with the statement of the Median traditions handed down by the classical authors, that three combats took place between Astyages and Cyrus before the final victory of the Persians.
*** This equality of the two peoples is indicated by the very terms employed by Darius, whom he speaks of them, in the Great Inscription of Behistun. He says, for example, in connection with the revolt of the false Smerdis, that "the deception prevailed greatly in the land, in Persia and Media as well as in the other provinces," and further on, that "the whole people rose, and passed over from Cambyses to him, Persia and Media as well as the other countries." In the same way he mentions "the army of Persians and Medes which was with him," and one sees that he considered Medes and Persians to be on exactly the same footing.
The change effected was so natural that their nearest neighbours, the Chaldaeans, showed no signs of uneasiness at the outset. They confined themselves to the bare registration of the fact in their annals at the appointed date, without comment, and Nabonidus in no way deviated from the pious routine which it had hitherto pleased him to follow. Under a sovereign so good-natured there was little likelihood of war, at all events with external foes, but insurrections were always breaking out in different parts of his territory, and we read of difficulties in Khume in the first year of his reign, in Hamath in his second year, and troubles in Plionicia in the third year, which afforded an opportunity for settling the Tyrian question. Tyre had led a far from peaceful existence ever since the day when, from sheer apathy, she had accepted the supremacy of Nebuchadrezzar.*
* All these events are known through the excerpt from Menander preserved to us by Josephus in his treatise Against Apion.
Baal II. had peacefully reigned there for ten years (574-564), but after his death the people had overthrown the monarchy, and various suffetes had followed one another rapidly—Eknibaal ruled two months, Khelbes ten months, the high priest Abbar three months, the two brothers Mutton and Gerastratus six years, all of them no doubt in the midst of endless disturbances; whereupon a certain Baalezor restored the royal dignity, but only to enjoy it for the space of one year. On his death, the inhabitants begged the Chaldaeans to send them, as a successor to the crown, one of those princes whom, according to custom, Baal had not long previously given over as hostages for a guarantee of his loyalty, and Nergal-sharuzur for this purpose selected from their number Mahar-baal, who was probably a son of Ithobaal (558-557).* When, at the end of four years, the death of Mahar-baal left the throne vacant (554-553), the Tyrians petitioned for his brother Hirom, and Nabonidus, who was then engaged in Syria, came south as far as Phoenicia and installed the prince.**
* The fragment of Menander does not give the Babylonian king's name, but a simple chronological calculation proves him to have been Nergal-sharuzur.
** Annals of Nabonidus, where mention is made of a certain Nabu-makhdan-uzur—but the reading of the name is uncertain —who seems to be in revolt against the Chaldaeans. Floigl has very ingeniously harmonised the dates of the Annals with those obtained from the fragment of Menander, and has thence concluded that the object of the expedition of the third year was the enthroning of Hirom which is mentioned in the fragment, and during whose fourteenth year Cyrus became King of Babylon.
This took place at the very moment when Cyrus was preparing his expedition against Astyages; and the Babylonian monarch took advantage of the agitation into which the Medes were thrown by this invasion, to carry into execution a project which he had been planning ever since his accession. Shortly after that event he had had a dream, in which Marduk, the great lord, and Sin, the light of heaven and earth, had appeared on either side of his couch, the former addressing him in the following words: "Nabonidus, King of Babylon, with the horses of thy chariot bring brick, rebuild E-khul-khul, the temple of Harran, that Sin, the great lord, may take up his abode therein." Nabonidus had respectfully pointed out that the town was in the hands of the Scythians, who were subjects of the Medes, but the god had replied: "The Scythian of whom thou speakest, he, his country and the kings his protectors, are no more." Cyrus was the instrument of the fulfilment of the prophecy. Nabonidus took possession of Harran without difficulty, and immediately put the necessary work in hand. This was, indeed, the sole benefit that he derived from the changes which were taking place, and it is probable that his inaction was the result of the enfeebled condition of the empire. The country over which he ruled, exhausted by the Assyrian conquest, and depopulated by the Scythian invasions, had not had time to recover its forces since it had passed into the hands of the Chaldaeans; and the wars which Nebuchadrezzar had been obliged to undertake for the purpose of strengthening his own power, though few in number and not fraught with danger, had tended to prolong the state of weakness into which it had sunk. If the hero of the dynasty who had conquered Egypt had not ventured to measure his strength with the Median princes, and if he had courted the friendship not only of the warlike Cyaxares but of the effeminate Astyages, it would not be prudent for Nabonidus to come into collision with the victorious new-comers from the heart of Iran. Chaldsea doubtless was right in avoiding hostilities, at all events so long as she had to bear the brunt of them alone, but other nations had not the same motives for exercising prudence, and Lydia was fully assured that the moment had come for her to again take up the ambitious designs which the treaty of 585 had forced her to renounce. Alyattes, relieved from anxiety with regard to the Medes, had confined his energies to establishing firmly his kingdom in the regions of Asia Minor extending westwards from the Halys and the Anti-Taurus. The acquisition of Colophon, the destruction of Smyrna, the alliance with the towns of the littoral, had ensured him undisputed possession of the valleys of the Caicus and the Hermus, but the plains of the Maeander in the south, and the mountainous districts of Mysia in the north, were not yet fully brought under his sway. He completed the occupation of the Troad and Mysia about 584, and afterwards made of the entire province an appanage for Adramyttios, who was either his son or his brother.*
* The doings of Alyattes in Troas and in Mysia are vouched for by the anecdote related by Plutarch concerning this king's relations with Pittakos. The founding of Adramyttium is attributed to him by Stephen of Byzantium, after Aristotle, who made Adramyttios the brother of Croesus. Radat gives good reasons for believing that Adramyttios was brother to Alyattes and uncle to Crosus, and the same person as Adramys, the son of Sadyattes, according to Xanthus of Lydia. Radet gives the year 584 for the date of these events.
He even carried his arms into Bithynia, where, to enforce his rule, he built several strongholds, one of which, called Alyatta, commanded the main road leading from the basin of the Rhyndacus to that of the Sangarius, skirting the spurs of Olympus.* He experienced some difficulty in reducing Caria, and did not finally succeed in his efforts till nearly the close of his reign in 566. Adramyttios was then dead, and his fief had devolved on his eldest surviving brother or nephew, Crosus, whose mother was by birth a Carian. This prince had incurred his father's displeasure by his prodigality, and an influential party desired that he should be set aside in favour of his brother Pantaleon, the son of Alyattes by an Ionian. Croesus, having sown his wild oats, was anxious to regain his father's favour, and his only chance of so doing was by distinguishing himself in the coming war, if only money could be found for paying his mercenaries. Sadyattes, the richest banker in Lydia, who had already had dealings with all the members of the royal family, refused to make him a loan, but Theokharides of Priene advanced him a thousand gold staters, which enabled Crosus to enroll his contingent at Bphesus, and to be the first to present himself at the rallying-place for the troops.**
* Radet places the operations in Bithynia before the Median war, towards 594 at the latest. I think that they are more probably connected with those in Mysia, and that they form part of the various measures taken after the Median war to achieve the occupation of the regions west of the Halys.
** A mutilated extract from Xanthus of Lydia in Suidas seems to carry these events back to the time of the war against Priene, towards the beginning of the reign. The united evidence of the accompanying circumstances proves that they belong to the time of the old age of Alyattes, and makes it very likely that they occurred in 566, the date proposed by Radet for the Carian campaign.
Caria was annexed to the kingdom, but the conditions under which the annexation took place are not known to us;* and Croesus contributed so considerably to the success of the campaign, that he was reinstated in popular favour. Alyattes, however, was advancing in years, and was soon about to rejoin his adversaries Cyaxares and Nebuchadrezzar in Hades. Like the Pharaohs, the kings of Lydia were accustomed to construct during their lifetime the monuments in which they were to repose after death. Their necropolis was situated not far from Sardes, on the shores of the little lake Gygaea; it was here, close to the resting-place of his ancestors and their wives, that Alyattes chose the spot for his tomb,** and his subjects did not lose the opportunity of proving to what extent he had gained their affections.
* The fragment of Nicolas of Damascus does not speak of the result of the war, but it was certainly favourable, for Herodotus counts the Carians among Croesus' subjects.
** The only one of these monuments, besides that of Alyattes, which is mentioned by the ancients, belonged to one of the favourites of Gyges, and was called the Tomb of the Courtesan. Strabo, by a manifest error, has applied this name to the tomb of Alyattes.
Drawn by Boudier, from the sketch by Spiegolthal.
His predecessors had been obliged to finish their work at their own expense and by forced labour;* but in the case of Alyattes the three wealthiest classes of the population, the merchants, the craftsmen, and the courtesans, all united to erect for him an enormous tumulus, the remains of which still rise 220 feet above the plains of the Hermus.
* This, at least, seems to be the import of the passage in Clearchus of Soli, where that historian gives an account of the erection of the Tomb of the Courtesan.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph.
The sub-structure consisted of a circular wall of great blocks of limestone resting on the solid rock, and it contained in the centre a vault of grey marble which was reached by a vaulted passage. A huge mound of red clay and yellowish earth was raised above the chamber, surmounted by a small column representing a phallus, and by four stelae covered with inscriptions, erected at the four cardinal points. It follows the traditional type of burial-places in use among the old Asianic races, but it is constructed with greater regularity than most of them; Alyattes was laid within it in 561, after a glorious reign of forty-nine years.*
* Herodotus gave fifty-seven years' length of reign to Alyattes, whilst the chronographers, who go back as far as Xanthus of Lydia, through Julius Africanus, attribute to him only forty-nine; historians now prefer the latter figures, at least as representing the maximum length of reign.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph.
It was wholly due to him that Lydia was for the moment raised to the level of the most powerful states which then existed on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. He was by nature of a violent and uncontrolled temper, and during his earlier years he gave way to fits of anger, in which he would rend the clothes of those who came in his way or would spit in their faces, but with advancing years his character became more softened, and he finally earned the reputation of being a just and moderate sovereign. The little that we know of his life reveals an energy and steadfastness of purpose quite unusual; he proceeded slowly but surely in his undertakings, and if he did not succeed in extending his domains as far as he had hoped at the beginning of his campaigns against the Medes, he at all events never lost any of the provinces he had acquired. Under his auspices agriculture flourished, and manufactures attained a degree of perfection hitherto unknown.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Choisy.
None of the vases in gold, silver, or wrought-iron, which he dedicated and placed among the treasures of the Greek temples, has come down to us, but at rare intervals ornaments of admirable workmanship are found in the Lydian tombs. Those now in the Louvre exhibit, in addition to human figures somewhat awkwardly treated, heads of rams, bulls, and griffins of a singular delicacy and faithfulness to nature. These examples reveal a blending of Grecian types and methods of production with those of Egypt or Chaldaea, the Hellenic being predominant,* and the same combination of heterogeneous elements must have existed in the other domains of industrial art—-in the dyed and embroidered stuffs,** the vases,*** and the furniture.****