The Histories by Herodotus – Book I, “Clio”
VI – Harpagus Convinces Cyrus to Take Over Media [123-130]
- When Cyrus had grown up, Harpagus, looking for revenge, visited him to ask for help. He convinced Median nobles that Astyages was cruel and needed to go. But the road to Persia was guided. He put a letter a dead hare to send to Cyrus and the carrier told him to open it.
- Cyrus opened it and read: “I’ll be you’d like revenge on Astyages. He wanted to kill you but I made sure you lived. You must’ve heard what he did to my son in return. You should come and take over. Nobody would fight back because they all hate Astyages. They might even fight for you.
- Cyrus thought about how to get Persia to revolt from Astyages. He wrote his thoughts out and called an assembly of Persians. He read his notes – Astyages was to be his general. “Let’s get him here.” He convinced the Persians to revolt.
- He brought men with reaping hooks to clear out a field then put flocks of sheep, goats and oxen of his father’s brought out loads of wine to entertain the army. He asked them what they liked best: clearing fields, butchering animals or partying? Partying obviously. He said – Follow me and your slave days are over. The Medes are what’s stopping us. Let’s revolt from Astyages.
- Astyages got wind of this and summoned him. Cyrus sent back a message – “I’ll be in your presence sooner than he’d like.” Astyages mobilized and appointed Harpagus as general. When the armies met, very few Medes fought. Most joined the Persians or ran away.
- Astyages heard that and threatened Cyrus – “You’ll never win,” and allowed him to escape, but killed the interpreters. He armed all the people left in the city and led them into battle, got defeated and fell into the enemy’s hands.
- Harpagus saw him as a prisoner and chided him. “What about that dinner? Now that you’re a slave and no longer a king?” Astyages asked, “Why are you claiming Cyrus’s win as your own?” Harpagus, “I got him to revolt against you and I get a ton of the credit.” Astyages, “Why would he get you to do his dirty work? Why would the Medes revolt? Only a Mede should be king of the Medes.”
- Astyages was king for 35 years. The Medes ran their area for 128 years – except during the period of Scythian rule. The Persians took over. Cyrus kept Astyages around for the rest of his life.