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Cyrus Post by :morris Category :Essays Author :Lydia H. Sigourney Date :November 2011 Read :2295

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Cyrus is among the most interesting characters described in ancient history. He seemed fitted by nature, as well as by education, for the exalted sphere that was allotted him. He is usually considered as the founder of the Persian empire, and was born about 600 years before the Christian era. He was beautiful in person, and still more admirable for the amiable qualities of his mind. His early training inured him to study, the endurance of fatigue, and the control of his appetites and passions. In his first twelve years of life, he was said to surpass all of his own age in knowledge, and a frank, noble dignity of carriage.

At this early period, he was sent to the court of his grandfather, Astyages, the Median king, where he remained for five years. There, the temptations of luxury and self-indulgence, by which he was surrounded, had no power to draw him from temperance and simplicity. He was ever anxious to make peace between those who differed, and to obtain pardon for such as had offended. So gentle, generous, and beneficent was he, as to become the idol of the people among whom he dwelt.

In his expedition into Assyria with his father, though still but a youth, he discovered great judgment, courage, and presence of mind. Military talents and skill, were in those times held essential to every illustrious man, and these he eminently possessed. After his conquest of Babylon and marriage with a Median princess, three kingdoms were united under his sway: Persia, Media, and Assyria. When he was peacefully settled in his great empire, he busied himself with framing laws for its prosperity and repose. "For a king," said he, "should be the shepherd of his people, and exercise vigilance and care over his flock."

This sentiment reminds us of the prophecy of Isaiah, uttered more than a century before the birth of this prince, and 170 years before the fall of Babylon, which it also predicts: "That saith of Cyrus, he is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure."

Prosperity crowned his efforts for the good of his people; and unbroken health, the reward of temperance and tranquillity of spirit, enabled him to persevere in these efforts. Yet he kept in his secret heart, a fear, founded on the changes of this mortal life, and the frailty of man, which restrained all pride, and kept him as humble as he was active and powerful. Of him it might have been said, as it was of our own Washington, that true merit was the foundation of his greatness.

Therefore, he affected no self-importance, but was affable to all, and repaid by cordial attachment. Cicero asserts that during the whole period of his reign, he was never heard to speak a rough or angry word. Xenophon speaks of him, as exhibiting the "model of a perfect government." Herodotus modifies this praise, and charges him with some faults. But the most exalted characters are subject to error, and the purest may be misunderstood or misrepresented. Even patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, have taught us by their own failings, the infirmity of our nature, and we should not require or expect perfection in others, until we are able to give an example of it ourselves.

When Cyrus approached death, he called around him his children and chief officers, gave them solemn and excellent advice by which to regulate their future conduct, and, thanking Heaven for all its blessings, calmly resigned his breath.

Cambyses, his successor, supplied mournful proof of the contrast that may exist between the son and the father. He was barbarous both at home and abroad, and put to death his own brother, from malignant envy, because he was able to shoot with a larger bow than himself. We will turn from the contemplation of such wickedness, to some of the last words of the great Cyrus to his children, which are here presented in a poetical garb:

Behold, I die! Restore my form
To dust, to darkness, and the worm:
For from the earth it first arose.
And there, at last, it finds repose.

Yet when this breath forsakes the clay,
Think ye the spirit shall decay?
No, no, my sons! Its mystic flight
Hath ever mock'd your keenest sight,
Even when it deign'd with mortal care
This prison of the flesh to share:
So, when stern Death my frame shall blot,
It lives, though you perceive it not.

Believe you trace through yonder sky
Your disembodied father's eye,
And be your motives pure and high:
But dread the ages yet unborn
Who stamp your deeds with praise or scorn:
Dread more than all, the Powers who seal
That sentence, man can ne'er repeal.

(The end)
Lydia H. Sigourney's essay: Cyrus

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