« PrécédentContinuer »
and beneath them were innumerable hosts of warriors and messengers, who passed to and fro defending the right and exterminating wrong. Chief of these was Serosh, or Srao'sha, "the serene, the strong," generalin-chief of the armies of Ormazd. He never slept, but continually guarded the earth with his drawn sword, especially after sunset, when demons had greatest power. At their death, he conducted the souls of the just to the presence of Ormazd, assisting them to pass the narrow bridge, from which the wicked fell into the abyss below.
27. A later development of the doctrines of Zoroaster was that dualism. which divided the universe into a Kingdom of Light and a Kingdom of Darkness. The latter was ruled by Ahriman', the source of all impurity and pain, assisted by his seven superior devas, or princes of evil; and the whole world was a battle-ground between the two armies of spirits, good and bad. If Ormazd created a paradise, Ahriman sent into it a venomous serpent. All poisonous plants, reptiles, and insects, all sickness, poverty, plague, war, famine, and earthquakes, all unbelief, witchcraft, and deadly sins were the work of Ahriman; and the world, which should have been "very good," was thus made the scene of suffering. Every object, living or inanimate, belonged to one or the other kingdom; and it was the duty of the servant of Ormazd to foster every thing holy and destroy every thing evil and impure. Agriculture was especially favored by Zoroaster, as promoting beautiful and healthful growths, and conquering blight, mildew, famine, and all destructive influences. It was the firm belief of all devout Zoroastrians that the Kingdom of Darkness would at length be overthrown, and the Kingdom of Light fill the universe.
28. RELIGION OF THE MEDES. The Magianism of the Medes, at the time of their conquest by Cyrus, was a third form of Aryan belief, modified by contact with the barbarous Scythians. It was a peculiar form of Natureworship, of which the four physical elements (so regarded), fire, air, earth, and water, were the objects. Fire, as the most energetic, was the chief. This system was wholly dependent on priest-craft; the Magi, or priestly caste, one of the seven Median tribes, were alone permitted to offer prayers and sacrifices. The Zoroastrians abhorred this doctrine as the work of devas, to supplant the pure principles which the race had received, in the beginning, from Ormazd himself. Darius in his inscriptions describes the usurpation of Goma'tes the Magian as the period when "the lie" prevailed. During the Magophonia, or yearly festival, which celebrated the suppression of this revolt, no Magian dared stir abroad for fear of death.
But with increased power and luxury came a change in the national religion. The showy ceremonies of Magianism were better suited to the pomp of an Eastern court than the simple and spiritual worship of the Zoroastrians. A reconciliation was probably begun in the reign of Darius, and completed in that of Artaxerx'es Longimanus. The Magians accepted the
essential doctrines of Zoroaster, and were permitted, in turn, to introduce a part of their own symbolism and priestly rites into the national worship. They kept the sacred fire in the temples, fed it with costly woods, and never suffered it to be blown with human breath. At the rising of the sun they chanted sacred hymns to the Lord and Giver of Light. One of them waked the king each morning with the words, "Rise, sire, and think upon the duties which Ormazd has commanded you to perform." The whole religious ceremonial of the court was committed to their care. They alone. possessed the sacred liturgies by which Ormazd was to be addressed; and it was believed that through them God revealed his will, either in the interpretation of dreams or by the motion of the stars.
29. Except that of the Hebrews, the Persian faith was the purest monotheism of the East. But its benefits were chiefly confined to the princely and noble caste, while with them its influence was neutralized in a great measure by the corruptions of the court. Polygamy was the fatal weakness of the Persian as of all other Eastern monarchies. The furious enmities of rival princesses filled the palace with discord, and often stained it with the darkest crimes. The hardy Persian mountaineers who had won the victories of Cyrus, whose simple but noble education taught them only "to ride the horse, to draw the bow, and to speak the truth," adopted the slavish manners of the races they had conquered, learned to dissemble and prostrate themselves before the face of a mortal, and became the splendid but often useless ornaments of an extravagant
30. INDIAN CONQUESTS. The first great expedition of Darius was against the Punjab', or Five Rivers of Western India. The imperial revenues were increased one-third by the acquisition of this rich goldtract, and a lucrative commerce now sprang up between the banks of the Indus and the shores of the Persian Gulf.
31. SCYTHIAN CAMPAIGN. The next enterprise of Darius was against the Scythians of Central Europe, between the Don and the Danube. His design was to avenge the Scythian devastations of Media and Upper Asia a century before, and to terrify the barbarians into future good behavior by a display of his power; perhaps also to open a way into Greece by the conquest of the Thracian tribes. The whole army and navy of the empire, consisting of not less than 700,000 land soldiers and 600 ships, assembled at the Thracian Bosphorus, which they crossed by a bridge of boats constructed by Ionian engineers. The naval force was furnished wholly by the Greeks of the Ægean,
32. Sending his fleet through the Black Sea into the Danube, with orders to make a bridge of boats two days' journey from its mouth, Darius marched through Thrace, receiving or compelling the submission of its tribes, and adding their young men to his army. Arriving at the
Danube, he crossed the bridge and gave orders to the Greeks to remain and guard it sixty days; if in that time he did not return, they might conclude that he had gone to Media by another route. The details of the great king's operations north of the Danube are unknown to history. There were no great cities to take; the wandering Scythians destroyed their scanty harvests, stopped their wells, removed their families northward to places of security, and drew the invader after them into the depths of their forests or uninhabited deserts.
Unable to bring his enemy to battle, and seeing his army reduced to great distress for want of food and water, Darius was compelled to retreat by the way he had come. The sixty days were more than elapsed when a Scythian force, which had been watching his movements, hastened to the Danube by a shorter route, urging the Ionians, who were still on guard, to destroy the bridge and leave Darius to perish, like Cyrus, in the northern deserts. The Grecks of Asia might thus have gained their freedom without a blow; but the tyrants who commanded the fleet had interests of their own quite separate from those of their people. Histiæ'us of Mile'tus urged upon his fellow-despots that their power must fall with that of Darius, being sustained by him against the popular will. His arguments prevailed, and the great king, arriving in the darkness of midnight, closely pursued by the Scythians, was able to repass the river in safety.
33. Histiæus was rewarded by a grant of land on the river Stry'mon, including the town of Myrci'nus, for the site of a colony. With its fertile soil, ample forests, convenience for commerce, and neighboring mines of gold and silver, this new domain immediately attracted settlers and became an important maritime station. Its rapid growth, indeed, excited the fears of Darius, lest its owner might become too powerful for a vassal, and interpose a barrier between himself and the Greeks. He sent for Histiæus, whom he treated with every mark of respect, and pretending that he could not do without his valuable counsels, kept him constantly within reach at the court of Susa. Histiæus, resolved to break his golden chains at any cost, sent a singular epistle to his cousin, Aristag'oras, whom he had left as his lieutenant at Miletus, commanding him to stir up a revolt among the Asiatic Greeks.
34. The Ionian cities, extending ninety miles along the coast in an almost unbroken line of magnificent quays, warehouses, and dwellings, were so important to the empire, on account of the fleets which they could furnish, that they had been left in greater freedom than any other conquered territory. Instead of satraps, they were governed by their own magistrates either a single tyrant in each city or a council of nobles, called an oligarchy-but always in the Persian interest. The European Greeks were stirred by a desire to liberate their brethren in Asia, and this afforded a constant pretext for a Persian war. The forces of Athens
and Ere'tria were now added to those of Aristagoras, who had, moreover, strengthened his cause by abdicating his tyranny, and aiding the other cities to assume the same free and popular government which he established at Miletus. The tyrants were every-where expelled, and the people sprang to arms.
From Ephesus the united forces marched up the valley of the Cay'ster, and swiftly crossing the mountains, took Sardis by surprise. The city was easily captured, but Ar'tapher'nes, the satrap, retired with a strong garrison to the castle, which, from its inaccessible rock, defied assault. A spark falling on the light reeds which formed the roofs of Sardis set fire to the town, and the invaders were compelled to retire. They were pursued and defeated with great loss by Artaphernes, in the battle of Ephesus. The Athenians now withdrew, but the war went on with undiminished spirit. The inhabitants of Cyprus, the Carians and Caunians of the south-western corner of the peninsula made common cause with the Ionian, Æo'lian, and Hellespontine Greeks; Byzantium was taken, and the whole coast from the Thracian Bosphorus to the Gulf of Issus was for the moment free from Persian dominion. The brave Carians, though twice defeated with great loss, were victorious in a third battle, where a son-in-law of Darius was slain. But the power of the great king was at length triumphant. The fleet of the Ionians was defeated near Miletus, and the vengeance of the Persians was concentrated on this devoted city, the leader of the rebellion. After a long blockade, it was taken by storm in the sixth year of the revolt.
35. The honor of the great king was now engaged to the punishment of those European Greeks who had intermeddled between himself and his subjects. It was the first time that the Athenians had come to the notice of Darius. He inquired who and what sort of men they were, and being told, he seized his bow and shot an arrow into the air, crying aloud, "O Supreme God, grant that I may avenge myself on the Athenians!" From that time a servant was instructed to say to him three times every day as he sat at table, "Sire, remember the Athenians!"
36. In the spring of 492 B. C., a great force was intrusted for this purpose to Mardo'nius, son-in-law of Darius. Its immediate design failed, for the fleet was shattered at Mount Athos, and the army nearly destroyed by the Brygians, a Thracian tribe. Thasos, however, was captured, and Macedonia was subjected to Persia.
37. B. C. 490. A second great expedition, two years later, was conducted by Datis, accompanied by Artaphernes, son of the former satrap of that name, and nephew of the king. Having passed the sea, they fell first upon Eretria, which was taken by treachery, its temples burnt, and its inhabitants bound in chains for transportation to Asia. The first decisive trial of strength between Persia and the western Greeks took place
at Marʼathon, in Attica. The Persians numbered 100,000 men, the Greeks but little more than 10,000. The Medo-Persian troops had hitherto been considered invincible; but that magnificent soldiery was now, to a certain extent, replaced by unwilling conscripts from conquered tribes, who marched, dug, or fought under the lash of overseers. Miltiades, who, as prince of the Chersonesus, had served in the Persian armies, well knew this element of weakness, and it was with just confidence in the superiority of his free Athenians that he gave orders for the battle.
38. In the center, where the native Persians fought, they gained the advantage, and pursued the Athenians up one or two of the valleys which surround the base of Mount Kotro'ni; but, at the same time, both the right and left of the Asiatics were defeated by the Greeks, who, instead of pursuing, united their forces on the field to the relief of their center, and thus gained a complete victory. The Persians fled to their ships, now fiercely followed by the Greeks, and a still more furious contest ensued at the water's edge. The Athenians sought to fire the fleet, but seven galleys only were destroyed; the rest, with the shattered remains of the army, made good their escape.
39. The Persian commander did not lose his spirit in defeat. Encouraged by a preconcerted signal of the partisans of Hippias, he sailed immediately around Attica, hoping to surprise Athens in the absence of its defenders. But Miltiades, too, had seen the glittering shield raised upon a mountaintop, and guessed its meaning. Leaving Aristi'des with one tribe to guard the spoils of the battle-field, he led his army by a rapid nightmarch across the country to Athens. When Datis, the next morning, having doubled the point of Su'nium, sailed up the Athenian harbor, he saw upon the heights above the city the same victorious troops from whom his men had fled the evening before. He made no attempt to land, but sailed away with his Eretrian prisoners to the coasts of Asia.
40. Rather angered than dismayed by these failures, Darius prepared to lead in person a still greater expedition against the Greeks. But a revolt in Egypt first diverted his attention, and his death, in the following year, gave the free states of Europe time to complete their preparations for defense. B. C. 486.
Silver Daric of Darius I, enlarged one-half.