The Histories by Herodotus – Book I, “Clio”
V – Astyages & Cyrus [107-122]
A – Astyages has a Dream [107-113]
- Astyages was next on the throne. He had a dream about his daughter, Mandané, where a flood of water flowed from her that drowned the capital and all of Asia. This scared him so much that he wouldn’t allow her to marry any Mede but to a Persian.
- The Persian, Cambyses took Astyages’s daughter, Mandané, back to Persia. Astyages feared that their child, Cyrus, would take over Asia. He sent Harpagus to take the kid and kill him.
- Harpagus went to Mandané and told what her father wanted. He couldn’t kill the child. The kid was his relative and the only heir to Media. But he had to produce a dead baby as evidence.
- He took the baby and gave it to a shepherd, Mitradates, to look after.
- Mitridates’s wife had just had a stillborn child and gave it to Harpagus to pass off as a dead Cyrus, while the cowherd’s family kept Cyrus.
B – Cyrus is Found [114-122]
- When Cyrus was 10 years old, it was found out who he was. He was playing near a cow pasture with other kids and he was “appointed” king by the others. One kid, a nobleman’s son, refused to do as he was “ordered” and Cyrus had the other kids whip him. The boy ran off to his father to tell on Cyrus (wasn’t his name then). The father told the actual king, Astyages.
- Astyages wanted to do something and called the herder and Cyrus to the palace. Astyages questioned him about his behavior. Cyrus explained the game.
- Astyages grew suspicious about the boy, seeing something of himself in him, and he was the right age of the child he “had destroyed”. He spoke with the cowherd alone and he told him the whole, real story.
- Astyages was angry with Harpagus, asking him how he “killed” the child. Harpagus said he couldn’t kill a baby and gave it to the cowherd to deal with. “My eunuchs told me they saw it done and that’s what happened.”
- Astyages repeated what the cowherd had told him and that he believed the boy was Cyrus, his grandson. He wanted the boy to go to his birth parents and have a banquet prepared.
- Harpagus thought his disobedience turned to fine in the end and that the banquet was to be held in his honor. He went home and ordered his son to go run an errand for the king. Astyages had the boy killed, cut up into pieces and cooked for the banquet. The other guests ate normal food but Harpagus was fed his son unknowingly. The king asked him if he enjoyed his meal. “Yes”, he replied. A basket was brought out with the boy’s hands and feet. He didn’t scream or flinch. He just took the bones back home to bury.
- He sent for the Magi who interpreted the dream about Cyrus and asked for more advice. They said he must become king if he hadn’t been killed. He told him of the story of Cyrus playing king and the Magi said that counted and it was all over. “He’s foreign & Persian. As long as you or a Mede are on the throne, it’ll be fine. The dream means nothing else.”
- Cyrus’s father, Cambyses met him happily, thinking he’d been killed. Cyrus knew nothing about the story but had been sure he was a cowherd’s son in Media. On the way to Persia, his escort told him the truth that his adoptive mother was named “Cyno”, meaning “Bitch.”