« PreviousContinue »
shouldst save the child, thou shalt die by the most cruel death; and I am appointed to see the child exposed.” The herdsman, having heard these words, took the infant, returned back by the same way, and reached his cottage. It so happened that his wife, whose confinement had been daily expected, was brought to bed while he was absent in the city. And each had been in a state of anxiety for the other; he being alarmed about his wife's delivery, and the woman because Harpagus, who had not been accustomed to do so, had sent for her husband. When he returned and came up to her, she seeing him thus unexpectedly, first asked him why Harpagus had sent for him in such haste. “Wife," said he,“ when I reached the city, I saw and heard what I wish I had never seen, nor had ever befallen our masters. The whole house of Harpagus was filled with lamentations; I, greatly alarmed, went in, and as soon as I entered I saw an infant lying before me, panting and crying, dressed in gold and a robe of various colours. When Harpagus saw me, he ordered me to take up the child directly, and carry him away, and expose him in the part of the mountain most frequented by wild beasts; telling me at the same time that it was Astyages who imposed this task on me, and threatening the severest punishment if I should fail to do it. I took up the infant and carried him away, supposing him to belong to one of the servants; for I had then no suspicion whence he came; though I was astonished at seeing him dressed in gold and fine apparel; and also at the sorrow which evidently prevailed in the house of Harpagus. But soon after, on my way home, I learned the whole truth from a servant who accompanied me out of the city and delivered the child into my hands; that he was born of Mandane, Astyages's daughter, and of Cambyses, son of Cyrus, and that Astyages had commanded him to be put to death."
As the herdsman uttered these last words, he uncovered the child and showed it to his wife; she seeing that the child was large and of a beautiful form, embraced the knees of her husband, and with tears besought him by no means to expose it. He said that it was impossible to do otherwise; for that spies would come from Harpagus to see the thing done, and he must himself die the most cruel death if he should fail to do it. The woman, finding she could not persuade her husband, again addressed him as follows: “Since, then, I can not persuade you not to expose the child, do this at least, if it is absolutely necessary that he should be seen exposed: now I too have been delivered, and delivered of a still-born child, then take this and expose it, and let us bring up the son of Astyages's daughter as our own. Thus you will neither be convicted of having wronged our masters, nor shall we have consulted ill for our own interests; for the child that is dead will have a royal burial, and the one that survives will not be deprived of life.” The herdsman thought his wife spoke very much to the purpose under existing circumstances, and immediately proceeded to act accordingly: the child that he had brought for the purpose of putting to death he delivered to his wife; his own, which was dead, he put into the basket in which he had brought the other, and having dressed it in all the finery of the other child, he exposed it in the most desolate part of the mountains. On the third day after the infant had been exposed, the herdsman, having left one of his assistants as a guard, went to the city, and, arriving at the house of Harpagus, told him he was ready to show the dead body of the infant. Harpagus accordingly sent some of the most trusty of his guards, and by that means saw the body, and buried the herdsman's child. Thus this child was buried. The other, who afterward had the name of Cyrus, was brought up by the herdsman's wife, who gave him some other name, and not that of Cyrus.
When the child attained the age of ten years, a circumstance of the following nature discovered him: he was playing in the village in which the ox-stalls were, with boys of his own age, in the road. The boys who were playing chose this reputed son of the herdsman for their king. But he appointed some of them to build houses, and others to be his body-guards, one of them to be the king's eye, and to another he gave the office of bringing messages to him, assigning to each his proper duty. Now one of these boys who was playing with him, being son of Artembares, a man of rank among the Medes, refused to obey the orders of Cyrus; he therefore commanded the others to seize him, and when they obeyed, Cyrus scourged the boy very severely. But the boy, as soon as he was let loose, considering that he had been treated with great indignity, took it very much to heart, and hastening to the city, complained to his father of the treatment he had met with from Cyrus, not indeed saying from Cyrus (for he was not yet known by that name), but from the son of Astyages's herdsman. Artembares, in a transport of anger, went immediately to Astyages, and taking his son with him, said that he suffered treatment that was not to be borne, adding, “Thus, o king, are we insulted by your slave, the son of a herdsman,” showing the boy's shoulders. Astyages having heard and seen what was done, resolving, on account of the rank of Artembares, to avenge the indignity offered to the youth, sent for the herdsman and his son. When both came into his presence, Astyages, looking upon Cyrus, said, “ Have you, who are the son of such a man as this, dared to treat the son of one of the principal persons in my kingdom with such indignity?" But Cyrus answered: “Sir, I treated him as I did with justice. For the boys of our village, of whom he was one, in their play made me their king, because I appeared to them the most fitted to that office. Now, all the other boys performed what they were ordered, but he alone refused to obey, and paid no attention to my commands, wherefore he was punished; if then on this account I am deserving of punishment, here I am ready to submit to it.” As the boy was speaking thus, Astyages recognised who he was; both the character of his face appeared like his own, and his answer more free than accorded with his condition; the time also of the exposure seeined to agree with the age of the boy. Alarmed at this discovery, he was for some time speechless; and at last, having with difficulty recovered himself (being desirous of sending Artembares away in order that he might examine the herdsman in private), he said, " Artembares, I will take care that neither you nor your son shall have any cause of complaint.” Thus he dismissed Artembares; but the servants, at the command of Astyages, conducted Cyrus into an inner room; and when the herdsman remained alone, he asked him in the absence of witnesses, whence he had the boy, and from whose hands he received him? He affirmed that the boy was his own son, and that the mother who bore him was still living with him. Astyages told him that he did not consult his own safety in wishing to be put to the torture; and as he said this he made a signal to his guards to seize him. The man, when brought to the torture, discovered the whole matter, and beginning from the outset he went through it, speaking the truth throughout; and concluded with prayers and entreaties for pardon. Astyages, when the herdsman had confessed the truth, did not concern himself much about him afterward; but attaching great blame to Harpagus, he ordered his guards to summon him; and when Astyages asked, “Harpagus, by what kind of a death did you dispose of the child which I delivered to you born of my daughter?” Harpagus, seeing the herdsman present, had not recourse to falsehood, lest he should be detected and convicted, but said: “O king, when I had received the infant, I carefully considered how I could act according to your wish and command, and, without offending you, I might be free from the crime of murder both in your daughter's sight and in yours. I therefore acted as follows: having sent for this herdsman, I gave him the child, saying that you had commanded him to put it to death; and in saying this I did not speak falsely, for such indeed were your orders. In this manner I delivered the infant to him, charging him to place it in some desert mountain, and to stay and watch till the child was dead, threatening the severest punishment if he should not fully carry out these injunctions. When he had executed these orders, and the child was dead, I sent some of the most trusty of my eunuchs, and by means of them beheld the body, and buried it. This is the whole truth, O king, and such was the fate of the child.”
Thus Harpagus told the real truth; but Astyages, dissembling the anger which he felt on account of what had been done, again related to Harpagus the whole matter as he had heard it from the herdsman; and afterward, when he had repeated it throughout, he ended by saying that the child was alive and all was well. “ For," he added, “I suffered much on account of what had been done regarding this child, and could not easily bear the reproaches of my daughter; therefore since fortune has taken a more favourable turn, do you, in the first place, send your own son to accompany the boy I have recovered; and, in the next place (for I purpose to offer a sacrifice for the preservation of the child to the gods, to whom that honour is due), do you be with me at supper." Harpagus, on hearing these words, when he had paid his homage, and had congratulated himself that his fault had turned to so good account, and that he was invited to the feast under such auspicious circumstances, went to his own home. And as soon as he entered he sent his only son, who was about thirteen years of age, and bade him go to Astyages, and do whatever he should command; and then, being full of joy, he told his wife what had happened. But when the son of Harpagus arrived, having slain and cut him into joints, Astyages roasted some parts of his flesh and boiled others, and having had them well dressed, kept them in readiness. At the appointed hour, when the other guests and Harpagus were come, tables full of mutton were placed before the rest and Astyages himself, but before Harpagus all the body of his son, except the head, the hands, and the feet; these were laid apart in a basket covered over. When Harpagus seemed to have eaten enough, Astyages asked him if he was pleased with the entertainment; and when Harpagus
replied that he was highly delighted, the officers appointed for the purpose brought him the head of his son covered up with the hands and feet, and standing before Harpagus, they bade him uncover the basket and take what he chose. Harpagus doing as they desired, and uncovering the basket, saw the remains of his son's body, but he expressed no alarm at the sight, and retained his presence of mind; whereupon Astyages asked him if he knew of what animal he had been eating. He said he knew very well, and that whatever a king did was agreeable to him. After he had given this answer, he gathered the remains of the flesh and went home, purposing, as I conjecture, to collect all he could and bury it.
Astyages thus punished Harpagus; and then considering what he should do with Cyrus, summoned the Magi, who had formerly interpreted his dream. When they were come, Astyages asked them in what way they had interpreted his vision. They gave the same answer as before; and said, that if the boy was still alive, and had not already died, he must of necessity be king. He answered them as follows: “ The boy is and still survives, and while living in the country, the boys of the village made him king, and he has already performed all such things as kings really do, for he has appointed guards, door-keepers, messengers, and all other things in like manner; and now I desire to know to what do these things appear to you to tend." The Magi answered: “If the boy be living, and has already been a king by no settled plan, you may take courage on his account and make your mind easy, for he will not reign a second time. For some of our predictions terminate in trifling results; and dreams, and things like them, are fulfilled by slight events.” To this Astyages replied, “I too, O Magi, am very much of the same opinion, that since the child has been named king, the dream is accomplished, and that the boy is no longer an object of alarm to me; yet consider well, and carefully weigh what will be the safest course for my family and yourselves.” The Magi answered: “O king, it is of great importance to us that your empire should be firmly established, for otherwise it is alienated, passing over to this boy, who is a Persian, and we, who are Medes, shall be enslaved by Persians, and held in no account as being foreigners; whereas while you, who are of our own country, are king, we have a share in the government, and enjoy great honours at your hands. Thus, then, we must on every account provide for your safety and that of your government; and now, if we saw anything to occasion alarm we should tell you of it beforehand; but now, since the dream has