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Persia: Media Conquered

The nomadic Indo-European people known as Persians migrated into what is now modern Iran around 1000 BC. They settled in Persis in the southwestern portion of the area. Their tribe was called Parsua, and the only surviving evidence of their existence in Pre-Achaemenid Iran is in an inscription during the reign of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser II. As their population grew, their political power also increased. They reached the zenith of their power around 550 BC during the reign of Cyrus II (the Great). Which is where it is recorded on the Bible Timeline Poster with World History.

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Media, on the other hand, was an established kingdom in northwest Iran. The kingdom was subjugated by the Neo-Assyrian Empire, but in 612 BC  the Medians, along with the Babylonians, successfully rebelled against Assyrian rule. The fall of Nineveh marked the end of the Neo-Assyrian Empire and the Babylonians, as well as the Medes, became the leading powers in the region. Babylon was led by Nabopolassar and Media was ruled by Cyaxares. This, according to Herodotus, cemented an alliance through the union of their children. Cyaxares’ daughter Amytis married Nabopolassar’s son Nebuchadnezzar. Media and Persia would seal an alliance later on with the marriage between Mandane, the daughter of Astyages, and vassal prince Cambyses I of Anshan, who was the father of Cyrus the Great.

“Painting of King Astyages sending Harpagus to kill young Cyrus.”

The birth of Cyrus was shrouded in mystery and seemed more like a fantastic legend than a reliable account. According to Herodotus, Astyages had a dream and had his magicians interpret the dream. The interpretation given was that his daughter’s child would overthrow him from his throne. Fearing this, he decided to have the child killed. Astyages supposedly sent his court retainer Harpagus to kill his grandson, but Harpagus entrusted the killing of the child to a cowherd.

The cowherd, however, withdrew after he was convinced by his wife to trick the king. This was done by presenting their stillborn son to Harpagus and raising Cyrus instead. The infant was saved, and when Cyrus grew up, he met and charmed Astyages in his court in Media. Astyages punished Harpagus by killing his son and served the flesh to the father to eat without him knowing. When Harpagus discovered that he ate his own son’s flesh, he secretly plotted revenge against the Median king.

Cyrus eventually returned to Cambyses in Anshan. Harpagus quietly allied himself with Cyrus to exact his revenge for the murder of his son. He sent word to Cyrus and encouraged him to rebel against his own grandfather, reminding him of what Astyages did to him when he was an infant. When Astyages heard of the rebellion, he assembled the Median army and summoned Harpagus to lead them. The Persians won when Harpagus and many of his own men defected to the Persian side. Upon learning of their defection, Astyages armed the remaining men of Media and led them into battle where he was defeated by his own grandson. The kingdom of Media then submitted to Cyrus II and became part of the Persian empire.

Herodotus, and J. H. Sleeman. Herodotus. Bristol: Bristol Classical, 2002
Picture By Jean-Charles Nicaise PerrinWeb Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain,
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