Persians: Xenophon and an anonymous author on royal customs and Cyrus (early fourth century BCE / second century BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Persians: Xenophon and an anonymous author on royal customs and Cyrus (early fourth century BCE / second century BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified January 27, 2023,

Ancient authors: Xenophon of Athens, Cyropaedia, or The Education of Cyrus, parts of book 1 and 8 (with the final part of book 8 by a later anonymous author) (link Greek text and full translation).

Comments: There were substantial Greek ethnographic works devoted to explaining Persian customs and history, but the most significant ones (beyond Herodotos) have not survived in full. In particular, only portions of Ktesias of Knidos’ work on Persian Matters (Persika; written ca. 400 BCE) survives in quotations by other authors. This makes Xenophon’s work somewhat important for understanding certain Greek views of Persians. Xenophon’s work (written about 370 BCE) on the Education of Cyrus is a partially if not soley fictional biography which nonetheless presents itself in some parts as though it is an accurate sketch of Persian customs relating to the king Cyrus and his successors. But there are many clear signs (e.g. Greek images of the ideal king) that this source should not be used to reconstruct the realities of the Persian court (which is not a surprise since ethnographic writing tells us far more about the author and his ethnic group rather than the ethnic group under examination). Xenophon sometimes vaguely alludes to his sources, but he never names anyone. So this is valuable for understanding how a Greek from Athens in the fourth century might imagine or portray Persian customs in relation to Greek ones. Xenophon also suggests some connections between Persian customs and those of the Medes as well.

Xenophon’s ethnographic account of Persian education and communal organizatoin is largely positive (filled with the epideictic rhetoric of praise, at least for Cyrus himself). Yet the later author who (after about 210 BCE) added a final eighth book goes to great lengths to reverse this positive image and to suggest that just about every aspect of Persian customs practiced by Cyrus declined after his death. So Xenophon moves outside of many other common negative stereotypes about Persians and easterners generally (e.g. that they were effeminate and dishonest) but the person who added a new conclusion wanted to strongly reassert negative Greek stereotypes about Persians.

Source of the translation: W. Miller, Xenophon: Cyropaedia , 2 volumes, LCL (Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1914), public domain, adapted by Harland.


Book 1

[Introduction regarding the nature of power and the organization of society]

1 (1) The thought once occurred to us how many democracies [societal organizations based on rule by the People] have been overthrown by people who preferred to live under any form of societal organization other than a democratic one, as well as how many monarchies and how many oligarchies in times past have been abolished by the People. We reflected, moreover, how many of those individuals who have aspired to absolute power have either been deposed once for all and very quickly or, if they have continued in power even for a short a time, they are objects of wonder as having proved to be wise and happy men. Then we also had observed, we thought, that even in private homes some people who had more than the usual number of servants and some who had only a very few were, even though nominally masters, still quite unable to assert their authority over even those few.

(2) In addition to this, we reflected that cowherds are the rulers of their cows, and that all who are called herdsmen might properly be regarded as the rulers of the animals over which they are placed in charge. Now we noticed, as we thought, that all these herds obeyed their keepers more readily than men obey their rulers. For the herds go wherever their keeper directs them and graze in those places to which he leads them and keep out of those from which he excludes them. They allow their keeper, moreover, to enjoy, just as he will, the profits that accrue from them. then again, we have never known of a herd conspiring against its keeper, either to refuse obedience to him or to deny him the privilege of enjoying the profits that accrue. At the same time, herds are more intractable to strangers than to their rulers and those who derive profit from them. Men, however, conspire first against those whom they see attempting to rule over them.

[Extent of Cyrus’ rule over peoples](3) As we meditated on this analogy in this way, we were inclined to conclude that for men, as they are constituted, it is easier to rule over any and all other creatures than to rule over men. But when we reflected that there was one Persian Cyrus who reduced a vast population of men, cities and peoples (ethnē) to obedience, we were then forced to change our mind and decide that to rule men might be a task neither impossible nor even difficult, if one should only go about it in an intelligent manner. Anyways, we know that people obeyed Cyrus willingly, although some of them were distant from him a journey of many days or a journey of many months and others who had never seen him or still others who knew well that they would never see him. Nevertheless they were all willing to be his subjects.

(4) But all this is not so surprising after all, since he was so very different from all other kings, both those who have inherited their thrones from their fathers and those who have gained their crowns by their own efforts. The Scythian king, for instance, would never be able to extend his rule over any other people besides his own even though the Scythians are very numerous. Rather he would be quite content if he could maintain himself in power over his own people. Likewise with the Thracian king in relation to Thracians, the Illyrian in relation to Illyrians, and so also all other peoples, we are told.

Those in Europe, at any rate, are said to be free and independent of one another even to this day. But Cyrus, finding the peoples in Asia also independent in exactly the same way, started out with a little band of Persians and became the leader of the Medes by their full consent and of the Hyrkanians by their full consent. He then conquered Syria, Assyria, Arabia, Kappadocia (or: Cappadocia), both Phrygias, Lydia, Karia (or: Caria), Phoenicia, and Babylonia. He ruled also over Baktria, India, and Cilicia. He was likewise king of the Sakians, Paphlagonians, Magadidians, and very many other peoples, of which one could not even list the names. Cyrus brought under his sway the Asiatic Greeks also. Descending to the sea, he added both Cyprus and Egypt to his empire.

(5) Cyrus ruled over these peoples, even though they did not speak the same language as he did, nor did one people speak the same language as another. Despite all of that, he was able to cover so vast a region with the fear which he inspired that he struck all men with terror and no one tried to oppose him. He was able to awaken in everyone so lively a desire to please him that they always wished to be guided by his will. Moreover, the tribes (phylai) that he brought into subjection to himself were so many that it is difficult to even travel to them all, in whatever direction one begin one’s journey from the palace, whether toward the east or the west or toward the north or the south.

(6) Believing this man to be deserving of all admiration, we have therefore investigated who he was in his origin, what natural abilities he possessed, and what sort of education he had enjoyed with the result that he so greatly excelled beyond others in governing people. Accordingly, what we have found out or think we know concerning him we will now endeavour to present.

[Cyrus’ origins as a sign of his leadership abilities]

2 (1) The father of Cyrus is said to have been Cambyses, king of the Persians. This Cambyses belonged to the descent group (genos) of the Perseidians, and the Perseidians derive their name from Perseus. His mother, it is generally agreed, was Mandane, and this Mandane was the daughter of Astyages, king of the Medes at one point. Even to this day the barbarians relate stories and songs about how Cyrus was most handsome in person, most generous of heart, most devoted to learning, and most ambitious, so that he endured all sorts of labour and faced all sorts of danger for the sake of praise.

[Training in Persian laws and customs]

(2) Such then were the natural abilities, physical and spiritual, that he is reputed to have had. But he was educated in conformity with the laws (nomoi) of the Persians. These laws do not start at the same point as most city-states when it comes to care for the community. For most city-states [Greek poleis] permit every one to train his own children just as one wants, and the older people themselves to live as they please. Then they command them not to steal and not to rob, not to break into anybody’s house, not to strike a person whom they have no right to strike, not to commit adultery, not to disobey an officer, and so forth. If a person transgresses anyone one of these laws, they punish him.

(3) The Persian laws, however, begin at the beginning and make sure that, from the outset, their citizens will not have a character that would even desire anything improper or immoral. The measures they take are as follows. They have their so-called “Free Square,” where the royal palace and other government buildings are located. The people of the marketplace with their wares, their cries, and their vulgarities are excluded from this and relegated to another part of the city, in order that their disturbance may not intrude upon the orderly life of the cultured. (4) This square, enclosing the government buildings, is divided into four parts: one of these belongs to the boys, one to the youths, another to the men of mature years, and another to those who are past the age for military service. The laws require them to come daily to their several quarters. The boys and the full-grown men come at daybreak, but the elders may come at whatever time is most convenient, except that they must present themselves on certain specified days. But the youths pass the night also in light armour around the government buildings, except those who are married. No inquiry is made for this unless they be especially ordered in advance to be there, but it is not proper for them to be absent too often.

(5) Over each of these divisions there are twelve officers, for the Persians are divided into twelve tribes. They choose men from the ranks of the elders to be responsible for the boys based on who will make the boys into the best men. For responsibility over the youths, they choose from ranks of the mature men those who seem most likely to develop the youths in the best ways. For responsibility over the mature men, they select those who seem most likely to best prepare them to follow orders and requirements of the highest leaders. Among the elders, chiefs are also selected who act as overseers to ensure that those in this class also do their duty. What duties are assigned to each age to perform we will present now so that it will be better understood what efforts the Persians make to ensure that their citizens prove to be the very best.

[Persian customs of education for boys: principles of justice, gratitude and self-control]

(6) The boys go to school and spend their time in learning justice, and they say that they go there for this purpose, just as in our country they say that they go to learn to read and write. Their officers spend the greater part of the day in deciding cases for them. For, as a matter of course, boys also make charges against one another of theft, robbery, assault, cheating, slander, and other things that naturally come up, just as men do. When they discover any one committing any of these crimes, they punish him.

(7) They also punish anyone they find making false accusations. As well, they bring one another to trial for charges that people hate one another for most but go to law least, namely, the charge of ingratitude. If they know that any one is able to return a favour and fails to do so, they punish him also severely. For they think that the ungrateful are likely to be most neglectful of their duty toward their gods, their parents, their country, and their friends. For it seems that shamelessness goes hand in hand with ingratitude, and it is that, we know, which leads the way to every moral wrong.

(8) They teach the boys self-control also. Witnessing their elders living temperately day by day greatly promotes learning self-control. They teach them likewise to obey the officers. Witnessing their elders implicitly obeying their officers greatly promotes this also. Besides, they teach them self-restraint in eating and drinking. Witnessing their elders never leaving their post to satisfy their hunger until the officers dismiss them greatly promotes this as well. The same result is promoted by the fact that the boys do not eat with their mothers but with their teachers once the officers direct this to happen. Furthermore, they bring from home bread for their food, cress for a relish, and for drinking. If any one is thirsty, a cup to draw water from the river. Besides this, they learn to shoot and to throw the spear. This, then, is what the boys do until they are sixteen or seventeen years of age, and after this they are promoted from the class of boys and enrolled among the young men.

[Customs for young men: hunting, military training, moderate consumption]

(9) Now the young men (epheboi) in their turn live as follows: for ten years after they are promoted from the class of boys they pass the nights, as we said before, around the government buildings. This they do for the sake of guarding the city and of developing their powers of self-control. For it seems this time of life demands the most watchful care. During the day they put themselves at the disposal of the leaders, if they are needed for any communal service. Whenever it is necessary, they all remain around the public buildings. But when the king goes out hunting, he takes out half the garrison and he does this many times a month. Those who go must take bow and arrows and, in addition to the quiver, a sabre or curved knife in its scabbard. They carry along also a light shield and two spears, one to throw and the other to use in case of necessity in a hand-to-hand encounter.

(10) They provide for such hunting out of the treasury of the people. As the king is their leader in war, so he not only takes part in the hunt himself but sees to it that the others hunt, too. The expense of the hunting is covered in this way since the training it gives seems to be the best preparation for war itself. For it accustoms them to rise early in the morning and to endure both heat and cold, and it gives them practice in taking long walks and runs, and they have to shoot or spear a wild beast whenever it comes in their way. They must often test their courage when one of the fierce beasts fights them. For, of course, they must strike down an animal that comes close to them, and they must be on their guard against the one that threatens to attack them. In a word, it is not easy to find any quality required in war that is not required also in the chase.

(11) When they go out hunting they carry along a larger lunch than the boys do, as is proper, but in other respects the same. Yet they would never think of stopping for lunch while they are busy with the chase. However, if for some reason it is necessary to stay longer because of the game or if for some other reason they wish to continue longer on the chase, then they use this lunch as a dinner and hunt again on the following day until dinner time. They count these two days as one day, because they only consume one day’s provisions. This they do to harden themselves so that they may do this during war if it is ever necessary. Those of this age have the game that they kill to enjoy. If they fail to kill any, then cresses. Now, if any one thinks that they do not enjoy eating cresses with their bread or that they do not enjoy merely drinking water, let that person remember how sweet barley bread and wheat bread taste when one is hungry and how sweet water is to drink when one is thirsty [i.e. an aside to the skeptical reader].

(12) The divisions remaining at home, in their turn, pass their time shooting with the bow and hurling the spear and practising all the other skills that they learned when they were boys, and they continually engage in contests of this kind with one another. There are also public contests of this sort, for which prizes are offered. Whatever division has the greatest number of the most expert, the most manly, and the best disciplined young men, the citizens praise and honour not only its present chief officer but also the one who trained them when they were boys. Of the youths who remain behind, the leaders employ any that they may need, whether for garrison duty or for arresting criminals or for hunting down bandits, or for any other service that demands strength or dispatch. Such, then, is the occupation of the youths. when they have completed their ten years, they are promoted and enrolled in the class of the mature men.

[Customs for men]

(13) These, in turn, for twenty-five years after the time they are there enrolled, are occupied as follows: In the first place, like the youths, they are at the disposal of the leaders, if they are needed in the interest of the community in any service that requires men who have already attained discretion and are still strong in body. But if it is necessary to make a military expedition anywhere, those who have been educated in this way take the field, no longer with bow and arrows, nor yet with spears, but with what are termed “weapons for close conflict,” namely armour around their chest, a round shield on their left arm (such as Persians are represented with in art), and a sabre or curved knife in their right hands. All the magistrates are selected from this division of men, except the teachers of the boys. When they have completed the five-and-twenty years, they are, as one would expect, somewhat more than fifty years of age. Then they come out and take their places among those who really are, as they are called, the “elders.”

[Customs for elders]

(14) Now these elders (geraiteroi), in their turn, no longer perform military service outside their own country, but they remain at home and try all sorts of cases, both communal and individual. They try people indicted for capital offences also, and they elect all the officers. If any of the youths or the mature men fail in any duties prescribed by law, the respective officers of that division or any one else who wants to may enter complaint. After the elders have heard the case, they expel the guilty party, and the one who has been expelled spends the rest of his life degraded and disfranchised.

[Further details about Persian communal organization]

(15) Now, that the whole communal organization (politeia) of the Persians may be more clearly presented, I will go back a little. In light of what has already been said, now it can be stated in a very few words. It is said that the Persians number about one hundred and twenty thousand men. None of these men is excluded by law from holding offices and positions of honour, but all the Persians may send their children to the common schools of justice. Still, only those who are in a position to maintain their children without working send them and those who are not so situated do not send their children to the schools. Only those who are educated by the communal teachers are permitted to spend their young manhood in the class of the youths, while for those who have not completed this course of training, this is not permitted. Only those among the youths that complete the course required by law are permitted to join the class of mature men and to fill offices and places of distinction. While those who do not finish their course among the young men are not promoted to the class of the mature men. Again, those who finish their course among the mature men without blame become members of the class of elders. So, we see, the elders are made up of those who have enjoyed all honour and distinction. This is the policy by the observance of which they think that their citizens may become the best.

[Other customs]

(16) Even today there are signs of their moderate meals and their exercise: for even to the present time it is shameful for a Persian to spit or to blow his nose or to appear to have gas. It is shameful to be seen going away to urinate or for anything else like that. This would not be possible for them, if they did not lead a restrained life and sweat off the moisture by hard work, so that it passes off in some other way. This, then, is what we have to say in regard to the Persians in general. Now, to fulfill the purpose with which our narrative was begun, we will proceed to relate the history of Cyrus from his childhood on. . .

[The following omitted sections and books 2-7 contain many Greek ethnographic assumptions about Persians but in the form of largely, if not solely, fictional dialogues rather than express descriptions of Persian customs].


Book 8

[Royal customs of the Persian king Cyrus and his successors]

[Organization of the king’s court and military]

1 [omitted sections] . . . (6) When Chrysantas had finished this address, many others also both of the Persians and the allies rose to support him. They passed a resolution that the nobles should always be in attendance at court and be in readiness for whatever service Cyrus wished until he should dismiss them. As they then resolved, so even until today those who are the subjects of the great king in Asia continue to do: they are constantly in attendance at the court of their princes.

(7) As has been presented in the narrative above, the institutions which Cyrus inaugurated as a means of securing the kingdom permanently for himself and the Persians were preserved by succeeding kings unchanged even until today. (8) It is the same with these as with everything else: whenever the officer in charge is better, the administration of the institution is purer. But when the officer is worse, the administration is more corrupt. Accordingly, the nobles came to Cyrus’s court with their horses and their spears, for that is what was decreed by the best men who had conquered the kingdom with him. (9) Cyrus next appointed officers to have charge of the various departments, including tax-collectors, pay-masters, supervisors of works, keepers of his estates, and supervisors of provisions for living. He appointed also as supervisors of his horses and hounds those who he thought would keep these creatures in a condition most efficient for his use.

(10) In contrast to that, Cyrus did not leave to anyone else the precaution of ensuring that his associates were the best choices for establishing his ongoing success, but he considered that this responsibility was his own. For he knew that if there was ever an occasion for fighting, he would then have to select from their number men to stand beside and behind him, men in whose company also he would have to face the greatest dangers. From their number likewise he knew that he would have to appoint his captains of both infantry and cavalry. (11) In addition, he knew that generals would have to be commissioned from among that same group of people if generals were needed in his place. He knew that he must employ some of these to be governors and satraps of cities or of entire peoples, and that he must send others on embassies. The latter was an office which he considered most important for obtaining what he wanted without war.

(12) If, therefore, those by whom the most numerous and most important affairs of state were to be transacted were not what they should be, Cyrus thought that his government would be a failure. But if they were all that they were supposed to be, he believed that everything would succeed. In this conviction, therefore, he took upon himself this responsibility and he determined that the same practice of excellence should be his as well. For he thought that it was not possible for him to incite others to good and noble actions if he were not himself doing what he should. (13) When he had arrived at this conclusion, he thought, that he needed leisure if he was going to be able to focus his attention on the most important affairs. After that, he decided that it was out of the question for him to neglect the revenues, for he predicted that there would be enormous expenses connected with a vast empire. On the other hand, he knew that for him to be constantly engaged in giving his personal attention to his manifold possessions would leave him with no time to care for the safety of the whole realm.

(14) As Cyrus was pondering how the business of administration might be successfully conducted and how he still might have the desired leisure, he somehow happened to think of his military organization: in general, the sergeants care for the ten men under them, the lieutenants for the sergeants, the colonels for the lieutenants, the generals for the colonels, and in this way no one is left uncared for, even though there be many brigades. When the commander-in-chief wishes to do anything with his army, it is sufficient for him to issue his commands only to his brigadier-generals.

(15) On this same model, then, Cyrus centralized the administrative functions also. So it was possible for him to have no part of his administration neglected by communicating with only a few officers. In this way he now enjoyed more leisure than one who is in charge of a single household or a single ship. When he had organized his own functions in the government like this, he instructed those around him to follow the same plan of organization.

(16) In this way, then, he secured leisure for himself and for his ministers. Then he began to take measures that his associates in power should be what they were supposed to be. In the first place, if any of those who were able to live by the labours of others failed to attend at court, he made inquiry after them. For he thought that those who came would not be willing to do anything dishonourable or immoral. This was partly because they were in the presence of their sovereign. But this was also partly because they knew that, whatever they did, they would be under the eyes of the best men there. In the case of those who did not come, he believed that they absented themselves because they were guilty of some form of intemperance, injustice, or neglect of duty.

[Facilitating and controlling participation at court]

(17) We will describe first, therefore, the manner in which he obliged such people to come. He would direct some one of the best friends he had at court to seize some of the property of the man who did not present himself and to declare that he was taking only what was his own. So, whenever this happened, those who lost their effects would come to him to complain that they had been wronged. (18) Cyrus, however, would not be at leisure for a long time to give such men a hearing, and when he did give them a hearing he would postpone the trial for a long time. By so doing he thought he would accustom them to pay their court and that he would cause less negative feelings than he would if he compelled them to come by imposing penalties. (19) That was one of his methods of training them to attend. Another was to give those who did attend the easiest and the most profitable employment. another was never to distribute any favours among those who failed to attend. (20) But the most certain way of compelling participation was this: if a man paid no attention to any of these three methods, Cyrus would take away all that the man had and give it to some one else who he thought would present himself when he was wanted. In this way, he would get a useful friend in exchange for a useless one. The king today likewise makes inquiries if any one absents himself whose duty it is to be present.

[King’s modelling of excellent behaviour]

(21) Thus, then, Cyrus dealt with those who failed to attend at court. But in those who did present themselves he believed that he could in no way more effectively inspire a desire for the beautiful and the good than by endeavouring, as their sovereign, to put himself forward to his subjects as a perfect model of excellence. (22) For he thought he perceived that men are made better through even the written law, while the good ruler he regarded as a law with eyes for men, because he is able not only to give commandments but also to see the transgressor and punish him.

[Customs relating to the gods]

(23) In this conviction, he showed himself in the first place more devout in his worship of the gods, now that he was more fortunate. Then for the first time the college of Magians (magoi) was instituted. . . [material missing in manuscript]. he never failed to sing hymns to the gods at daybreak and to sacrifice daily to whatever deities the Magians directed. (24) Thus the institutions established by him at that time have continued in force with each successive king even to this day. Therefore, in this respect the rest of the Persians also imitated him from the outset. For they believed that they would be more sure of good fortune if they revered the gods just as the sovereign and most fortunate of anyone did. They also thought that in doing this they would please Cyrus.

(25) Cyrus considered that the piety of his friends was a good thing for him, too. He reasoned in the way some other do who prefer to set sail with pious companions when going on a voyage rather than with those who are believed to have committed some impiety. Besides, he reasoned that if all his associates were god-fearing men, they would be less inclined to commit crime against one another or against himself, for he considered himself their benefactor. (26) If he clearly showed how important it was to him to do no wrong to any of his friends or allies and if he always paid scrupulous attention to what was righteous, he thought that others would also be more likely to abstain from improper gains and to try to make their way by righteous methods. (27) He thought that he would be more likely to inspire respect for others in everyone if he himself was witness showing such respect for everyong in not saying or doing anything improper. (28) That this would be the result he concluded from the following observation: people have more respect for those who have such respect for others than they have for those who do not have such respect. They show respect toward even those whom they do not fear, to say nothing of what they would show toward their kings. Furthermore, when they see women showing respect for others, they are more inclined to look upon the women with respect.

(29) Again, obedience he thought would be most deeply impressed upon his attendants, if he showed that he honoured those who unhesitatingly obeyed more than those who thought they exhibited the greatest and most elaborate virtues. Thus he continued throughout to judge and to act. (30) By making his own self-control an example, he disposed all to practise that virtue more diligently. For when the weaker members of society see that one who is in a position where he may indulge himself to excess is still under self-control, they naturally strive all the more not to be found guilty of any excessive indulgence. (31) Moreover, he distinguished between considerateness and self control in this way: the considerate are those who avoid what is offensive when seen. The self-controlled avoid that which is offensive, even when unseen. [The preceding sentence is absent in some manuscripts]. (32) He thought that temperance could be best inculcated if he showed that he himself was never carried away from the pursuit of the good by any pleasures of the moment, but that he was willing to labour first for the attainment of refined pleasures.

[Conclusion of section on the Persian court]

(33) To sum up, then, by setting such an example Cyrus secured at court great correctness of conduct on the part of his subordinates, who gave precedence to their superiors. Thus he also secured from them a great degree of respect and politeness toward one another. Among them you would never have detected any one raising his voice in anger or giving expression to his delight in boisterous laughter. Instead, on seeing them you would have judged that they were in truth making a noble life their aim.

[Customs of hunting]

(34) Such was what they did and such what they witnessed daily at court. With a view to training in the skills of war, Cyrus used to take out hunting those who he thought needed some practice, for he held that this was altogether the best training in military knowledge and also the best for horsemanship. (35) For it is the exercise best adapted to give riders a firm seat in all sorts of places, because they have to pursue the animals wherever they may run. It is also the best exercise to make them active on horseback because of their rivalry and eagerness to get the game. (36) By this same exercise, too, he was best able to accustom his associates to temperance and the endurance of hardship, to heat and cold, and to hunger and thirst. Even to this day the king and the rest that make up his retinue continue to engage in the same sport.

(37) From all that has been said, therefore, it is evident that Cyrus believed that no one had any right to rule who was not better than his subjects. It is also clear that in drilling those around him he himself got his own best training both in temperance and in the skills and pursuits of war. (38) For he not only used to take the others out hunting, whenever there was no need of his staying at home. Even when there was some need of his staying at home, he would himself hunt the animals that were kept in the parks. He never dined without first having got himself into a sweat, nor would he have any food given to his horses without their having first been duly exercised. He also invited the mace-bearers who attended him to these hunts.

(39) The result of all this constant training was that he and his associates greatly excelled in all manly exercises. This is the sort of example he provided by his own personal conduct. Besides this, he used to reward other people whom he saw devoting themselves most eagerly to the attainment of excellence with gifts, positions of authority, seats of honour, and all sorts of favours. In this manner, he inspired everyone towards earnest ambition, each striving to appear as deserving as he could in the eyes of Cyrus.

[Cyrus’ adoption of Median forms of dress]

(40) We think, furthermore, that we have observed in Cyrus that he held the opinion that a ruler should excel his subjects not only in point of being actually better than they are, but that he should also cast a sort of spell upon them. At any rate, he chose to wear the Median dress himself and persuaded his associates also to adopt it. For he thought that if any one had any personal defect, that dress would help to conceal it, and that it made the wearer look very tall and very handsome. (41) For their shoes are made in such a way that, without being detected, the wearer can easily put something into the soles to make him look taller than he is. He encouraged also the fashion of pencilling the eyes to make the eyes seem more lustrous than they are and using cosmetics to make the complexion look better than nature made it.

(42) He trained his associates also not to spit or to wipe the nose in public, and not to turn round to look at anything, as being men who wondered at nothing. All this he thought contributed, in some measure, to their appearing to their subjects men who could not lightly be despised.

[Treatment of the lower social strata and servants]

(43) Those, therefore, who Cyrus thought should be in authority he prepared in his own school by careful training as well as by the respect which he commanded as their leader. On the other hand, those whom he was training to be servants he did not encourage to practise any of the exercises of freemen. Neither did he allow them to own weapons. But he took care that they should not suffer any deprivation in food or drink on account of the exercises in which they served the freemen. (44) he managed it in this way: whenever they were to drive the animals down into the plains for the horsemen, he allowed those of the lower classes, but none of the freemen, to take food with them on the hunt. Whenever there was an expedition to make, he would lead the serving men to water, just as he did the beasts of burden. again, when it was time for lunch, he would wait for them until they could get something to eat, so that they should not get so extremely hungry. So this class also called him “father,” just as the nobles did, for he provided for them well. The result was that they might spend all their lives as slaves without a protest. (45) By doing this, he secured for the whole Persian empire its essential stability. As for himself, he was perfectly confident that there was no danger of his suffering anything at the hands of those whom he had subdued. The ground of his confidence was this: that he believed them to be powerless and he saw that they were unorganized. Besides that, not one of them came near him either by night or by day.

[Treatment of the more powerful]

(46) But there were some whom Cyrus considered very powerful and whom he saw well armed and well organized. And he knew that some of them had cavalry under their command and that others had infantry. He was aware that many of them had the assurance to think that they were competent to rule. These not only came in very close touch with his guards but many of them came frequently in contact with Cyrus himself, and this was unavoidable if he was to make any use of themt – this, then, was the quarter from which there was the greatest danger that something might happen to him in any one of many ways.

(47) So, as Cyrus considered how to remove any danger that might arise from them as well, he rejected the thought of disarming them and making them incapable of war. For he decided that that would be unjust, and besides he thought that this would be destruction to his empire. On the other hand, he believed that to refuse to admit them to his presence or to show that he mistrusted them would lead at once to hostilities. (48) But better than any of these ways, he recognized that there was one course that would be at once the most honourable and the most conducive to his own personal security, and that was, if possible, to make those powerful nobles better friends to himself than to one another. We will, therefore, attempt to explain the method that he seems to have taken to gain their friendship.

2 (1) In the first place, then, he showed at all times as great kindness of heart as he could because he believed that just as it is not easy to love those who seem to hate us, or to cherish good-will toward those who bear negative feelings toward us, in the same way those who are known to love and to cherish good-will could not be hated by those who believe themselves loved. (2) During the time, therefore, when he was not yet quite able to do favours through gifts of money, he tried to win the love of those around him by by anticipating what they may need, labouring for them, and showing that he rejoiced with them in their good fortune and sympathized with them in their accidents. After he found himself in a position to do favours with money, it seems to us that he recognized from the start that there is no kindness which men can show one another (with the same amount of expense) more acceptable than sharing meat and drink with them.

[Banqueting customs]

(3) In this belief, Cyrus first of all arranged that there should be placed upon his own table a quantity of food (similar to what he usually ate) sufficient for a very large number of people. Everything that was served to him (except what he and his companions at table consumed) he distributed among those of his friends to whom he wished to send remembrances or good wishes. He used to send such presents around to those whose services on garrison duty or in attendance upon him or in any other way met with his approval. In this way, he let them see that he did not fail to observe their wish to please him. (4) He used also to honour with presents from his table any one of his servants whom he took occasion to commend. He had all of his servants’ food served from his own table, for he thought that this would implant in them a certain amount of good-will, just as it does in dogs. If he wished to have any one of his friends courted by the multitude, to such a one he would send presents from his table. That device proved effective because even today everybody pays more diligent court to those to whom they see things sent from the royal table. This is because they think that such persons must be in high favour and in a position to secure for them anything they may want. Moreover, it is not for these reasons only that that the king’s gifts give delight, but the food that is sent from the king’s serving really is much superior in the gratification also that it gives.

(5) But it is no surprise that this is the way it is. For just as all other arts are developed to superior excellence in large cities, in that same way the food at the king’s palace is also elaborately prepared with superior excellence. For in small towns the same workman makes chairs, doors, plows and tables, and often this same artisan builds houses. Even so he is thankful if he can only find employment enough to support him. It is, of course, impossible for a man of many trades to be proficient in all of them. In large cities, on the other hand, inasmuch as many people have demands to make upon each branch of industry, one trade alone and very often even less than a whole trade is enough to support a man. One man, for instance, makes shoes for men and another for women. And there are places even where one man earns a living by only stitching shoes, another by cutting them out, another by sewing the uppers together, while there is another who performs none of these operations but only assembles the parts. It follows, therefore, as a matter of course, that he who devotes himself to a very highly specialized line of work is bound to do it in the best possible manner.

(6) Exactly the same thing holds true also in reference to the kitchen: in any establishment where one and the same man arranges the dining couches, lays the table, bakes the bread, prepares now one sort of dish and now another, he must necessarily have things go as they may. But where it is all one man can do to stew meats and another to roast them, for one man to boil fish and another to bake them, for another to make bread and not every sort at that, but where it suffices if he makes one kind that has a high reputation. In that case, everything that is prepared in such a kitchen will, I think, necessarily be worked out with superior excellence.

[Customs of royal gift-giving, and the king’s “eyes” and “ears” – spies]

(7) Accordingly, Cyrus far surpassed all others in the art of making much of his friends by gifts of food. How he far surpassed in every other way of courting favour, I will now explain. Though he far surpassed all other men in the amount of the revenues he received, yet he surpassed still more in the quantity of presents he made. It was Cyrus, therefore, who began the practice of lavish giving, and among the kings it continues even to this day. (8) For who has richer friends to show than the Persian king? Who is there that is known to adorn his friends with more beautiful robes than does the king? Whose gifts are so readily recognized as some of those which the king gives, such as bracelets, necklaces, and horses with gold-studded bridles? For, as everybody knows, no one over there is allowed to have such things except those to whom the king has given them. (9) About whom else is it said that by the munificence of his gifts he makes himself preferred above even brothers, parents, and children? Who else was ever in a position like the Persian king to punish enemies who were distant a journey of many months? And who, besides Cyrus, ever gained an empire by conquest and even to his death was called “father” by the people he had subdued? For that name obviously belongs to a benefactor rather than to a despoiler.

(10) Moreover, we have discovered that he acquired the so-called “king’s eyes” and “king’s ears” [people engaging in surveillance] in no other way than by offering presents and honours. For by rewarding liberally those who reported to him whatever he wanted to know about, he prompted many men to make it their business to use their eyes and ears to spy out what they could report to the king to his advantage. (11) As a natural result of this, many “eyes” and “ears” were ascribed to the king. But if any one thinks that the king selected one man to be his “eye,” he is wrong. For a single person would see and single person would hear only a little bit. It would have amounted to ordering all the rest to pay no attention, if a single person had been appointed to see and hear. Besides, if people knew that a certain man was the “eye,” they would know that they must beware of him. But this is not the case, because the king listens to anybody who may claim to have heard or seen anything worthy of attention. (12) This is how the saying comes about: “The king has many ears and many eyes.” People are everywhere afraid to say anything to the discredit of the king, just as if he himself were listening. They are afraid to do anything to harm him, just as if he were present. Not only, therefore, would no one have ventured to say anything derogatory about Cyrus to any one else, but every one conducted himself at all times just as if those who were within hearing were so many eyes and ears of the king. I do not know what better reason any one could assign for this attitude toward him on the part of people generally than that it was his policy to do large favours in return for small ones.

(13) That the richest man of all, Cyrus, should excel in the munificence of his presents is not surprising. But for him, the king, to exceed all others in thoughtful attention to his friends and in care for them, that is more remarkable. It is said that it is no secret that there was nothing that would shame him more than being outdone in attention to friends.

(14) People quote a remark of his to the effect that the duties of a good shepherd and of a good king were very much alike. A good shepherd should, while deriving benefit from his flocks, make them happy (so far as sheep can be said to have happiness). In the same way, a king should make his people and his cities happy if he wants to derive benefits from them. Seeing that he held this theory, it is not at all surprising that he was ambitious to surpass all other men in attention to his friends. . . [anecdote and dialogue involving Croesus and Cyrus omitted].

[Physicians and medical support]

(24) Besides this, Cyrus had observed that most people in days of health and strength make preparations so that they have the necessities of life, and they store for themselves what will offer the wants of healthy people. But he saw that they made no provision at all for what they would need if they got sick. He resolved, therefore, to work out these problems, and with that aim in mind he spared no expense to collect around him the very best physicians and surgeons and all the instruments, drugs and food and drink that any one of them said would be useful. There were none of these things that he did not procure and store at his palace. (25) Whenever any one fell sick in whose recovery he was interested, he would visit him and provide for him whatever was needed. He was grateful to the physicians whenever any of them took any of his medical supplies and effected a cure. (26) These and many other such arts he employed in order to hold the first place in the affections of those by whom he wished to be beloved.


The games, in which Cyrus used to announce contests and to offer prizes from a desire to inspire in his people a spirit of emulation in what was beautiful and good. These games also brought him praise, because his aim was to secure practice in excellence. But these contests also stirred up contentions and jealousies among the nobles. (27) Besides this, Cyrus had made a regulation that was practically a law, that, in any matter that required adjudication, whether it was a civil action or a contest for a prize, those who asked for such adjudication must concur in the choice of judges. It was, therefore, a matter of course that each of the contestants aimed to secure the most influential men as judges and the ones that were most friendly to the contestant. The one who did not win was always jealous of those who did, and disliked those of the judges who did not vote in his favour. On the other hand, the one who did win claimed that he had won by virtue of the justice of his cause, and so he thought he owed no thanks to anybody.

(28) Those also who wished to hold the first place in the affections of Cyrus were jealous of one another, just like other people (even in democracies), so that in most cases the one would have wished to get the other out of the way sooner than to join with him in any work to their mutual interest.Thus it has been shown how he contrived that the most influential citizens should love him more than they did each other.

[Royal processions]

3 (1) Next we will describe how Cyrus for the first time proceeded out from his palaces. that is discussed here because the magnificence of his appearance seems to us to have been one of the arts that he devised to make his government command respect. Accordingly, before he started out, he called those Persians and allies who held office, and distributed Median robes among them (and this was the first time that the Persians put on the Median robes). As he distributed them he said that he wished to engage in a procession to the sanctuaries that had been selected for the gods, and to offer sacrifice there with his friends. . . [procedure illustrated in a dialogue, which is omitted here].

. . . (9) When the next day dawned, everything was in order before sunrise. Rows of soldiers stood on both sides of the street, just as even to this day the Persians stand where the king is to pass. Within these lines no one may enter except those who hold positions of honour. Policemen with whips in their hands were stationed there and they struck any one who tried to crowd in. First in order, in front of the gates stood about four thousand lancers, four deep, and two thousand on either side the gates. (10) All the cavalry-men had descended and stood there beside their horses, and they all had their hands thrust through the sleeves of their jackets, just as they do even to this day when the king sees them. The Persians stood on the right side of the street and others with the allies on the left, and the chariots were arranged in the same way, half on either side. (11) Then, when the palace gates were thrown open, there were led out at the head of the procession four across some exceptionally handsome bulls for Zeus and for the other gods as the Magians directed. This is because Persians think that they should very scrupulously be guided by those whose profession is with things divine than they are by those in other professions. (12) Next after the bulls came horses as a sacrifice for the Sun. After them came a chariot sacred to Zeus. It was drawn by white horses and with a yoke of gold and wreathed with garlands. Next, for the Sun, a chariot drawn by white horses and wreathed with garlands like the other. After that came a third chariot with horses covered with purple trappings, and behind it followed men carrying fire on a great altar.

(13) Next after these Cyrus himself appeared on a chariot in the gates wearing his tiara upright, a purple tunic shot with white (no one but the king may wear such a one), pants of scarlet dye on his legs, and a purple mantle. He had also a fillet around his tiara and his kinsmen also had the same mark of distinction (and they retain it even now). (14) He kept his hands outside his sleeves. With him rode a charioteer, who was tall but not actually or seemingly as tall as Cyrus. Anyways, Cyrus looked much taller. When they saw him, they all kneeled before him, either because some had been instructed to begin this act of homage, or because they were overcome by the splendour of his presence, or because Cyrus appeared so great and so beautiful to see. Anyways, no one among the Persians had ever kneeled before Cyrus previously.

(15) Then, when Cyrus’s chariot had come forth, the four thousand lancers took the lead, and the two thousand fell in line on either side of his chariot. His mace-bearers, about three hundred in number, followed next in processional attire, mounted, and equipped with their customary javelins. (16) Next came Cyrus’s private stud of horses, about two hundred in all, led along with gold-mounted bridles and covered over with embroidered housings. Behind these came two thousand men with spears and after them the original ten thousand Persian cavalry, drawn up in a square with a hundred on each side. Chrysantas was in command of them. (17) Behind them came ten thousand other Persian horsemen arranged in the same way with Hystaspas in command, and after them ten thousand more in the same formation with Datamas as their commander. Following them, as many more with Gadatas in command. (18) Then followed in succession the cavalry of the Medes, Armenians, Hyrkanians, Kadusians, and Sakians. Behind the cavalry came the chariots ranged four across, and Artabatas, a Persian, had command of them.

(19) as he proceeded, a great throng of people followed outside the lines with petitions to present to Cyrus about this or that matter. So he sent to them some of his mace-bearers, who followed (three on either side of his chariot) for the express purpose of carrying messages for him. He instructed them to say that if any one wanted anything from him, that person should make his wish known to one of his cavalry officers. Then the officers, he said, would inform him. So the people immediately fell back and made their way along the lines of cavalry, each considering what officer he should approach. . . [sections omitted].

[Organization and movement of the army and encampments]

5 (1) When it seemed to him that affairs in Babylon were sufficiently well organized for him to leave the city, he began to make preparations for his journey to Persia and issued instructions to the others accordingly. As soon as he had gathered a sufficient quantity of everything that he thought he would need, he started immediately. (2) We will relate here in how orderly a manner his train packed up, large though it was, and how quickly they reached their destination. For wherever the great king encamps, all his retinue follow him to the field with their tents, whether in summer or in winter. (3) At the very beginning Cyrus made it a rule that his tent should be pitched facing east. Then he determined, first, how far from the royal pavilion the spear-men of his guard should have their tent. Next he assigned a place on the right for the bakers, on the left for the cooks, on the right for the horses, and on the left for the rest of the pack-animals. Everything else was so organized that every one knew his own place in camp, both its size and its location. (4) When they come to pack up again, every one gets together the things that it is his business to use and others in turn pack them upon the animals, so that the baggage-men all come at the same time to the things they were appointed to transport. Everyone of them pack the things upon their several animals at the same time. Thus the amount of time needed for packing a single tent suffices for everyone. (5) The unpacking also is managed in this same manner. In order to have all the necessaries ready at the right time, each one has his role assigned to him. In this way the time required for doing any one part is sufficient for getting all the provisions ready.

(6) Just as the servants in charge of the provisions each had a proper place, so also his soldiers had when they encamped the places suitable to each sort of troops. They knew their places, too, and so all found them without the slightest friction. (7) For Cyrus considered orderliness to be a good thing to practise in the management of a household also. For whenever any one wants a thing, he then knows where he must go to find it. But he believed that orderliness in all the departments of an army was a much better thing, inasmuch as the chances of a successful stroke in war come and go more quickly and the losses occasioned by those who are behindhand in military matters are more serious. He also saw that the advantages gained in war by prompt attention to duty were most important. It was for this reason, therefore, that he took especial pains to secure this sort of orderliness.

(8) Accordingly, he himself first took up his position in the middle of the camp in the belief that this situation was the most secure. Then came his most trusty followers, just as he was used to having them around him at home, and next to them in a circle he had his horsemen and charioteers. (9) For those troops also, he thought, need a secure position, because when they are in camp they do not have ready at hand any of the arms with which they fight, but need considerable time to arm, if they are to render effective service. (10) To the right and left from him and the cavalry was the place for the targeteers. before and behind him and the cavalry, the place for the bowmen. (11) He arranged the heavily armed foot-soldiers (hoplites) and those armed with the large shields around all the rest like a wall, so that those who could best hold their ground might, by being in front of them, make it possible for the cavalry to arm in safety, if it should be necessary. (12) Moreover, he had the light-troops (peltasts) and the bowmen sleep on their arms, like the heavily armed foot-soldiers, in order that, if there should be occasion to go into action even at night, they might be ready for it. Just as the foot-soldiers were prepared to do battle if any one came within arm’s reach of them, so these troops also were to be ready to let fly their lances and arrows over the heads of the foot-soldiers, if any one attacked.

(13) All the officers had banners over their tents. just as in the cities well-informed officials know the residences of most of the inhabitants and especially those of the most prominent citizens, so also in camp the aides under Cyrus were acquainted with the location of the various officers and were familiar with the banner of each one. So if Cyrus wanted one of his officers, they did not have to search for him but would run to him by the shortest way. (14) As every division was so well distinguished, it was much more easy to see where good order prevailed and where commands were not being executed. Therefore, as things were arranged, he believed that if any enemy were to attack him either by night or by day, the attacking party would fall into his camp as into an ambush.

(15) Cyrus believed also that tactics did not only consist in being able to easily extend one’s line or increase its depth, or to change it from a long column into a phalanx, or without error to change the front by a counter march in relation to the enemy coming up on the right or the left or from behind. But he considered it also a part of good tactics to break up one’s army into several divisions whenever occasion demanded; to place each division where it would do the most good; and, to make speed when it was necessary to reach a place before the enemy. All of these and other such qualifications were essential, he believed, to a skilful tactician, and he devoted himself to them all alike. (16) So on his marches he always proceeded giving out his orders with a view to existing circumstances. But in camp his arrangements were made, for the most part, as has been described. . . [sections omitted].

[Satraps and administrative structure of the Persian empire]

6 (1) When he arrived in Babylon, he decided to send out satraps to govern the peoples he had subdued. But he wanted it to be that the commanders of the garrisons in the citadels and the colonels in command of the guards throughout the country were responsible to no one but the king. He made this provision so that, if any of the satraps used the strength of the wealth or the men at their command to engage in open insolence or attempt to refuse obedience, they might at once find opposition in their province. (2) Therefore, in wanting to achieve this he resolved first to call together his chief officers and inform them in advance, so that when they went they would know why they were going. For he believed that if he did so, they would take it more kindly. Whereas he thought that they might take it poorly if any of them discovered the conditions after being installed as satraps, for then they would think that this policy had been adopted from distrust of them personally. . . [fictional address by Cyrus omitted].

(7) . . . then he chose out from the number of his friends those whom he saw eager to go on the conditions named and who seemed to him best qualified, and sent them as satraps to the following countries: Megabyzus to Arabia, Artabatas to Cappadocia, Artacamas to Phrygia Major, Chrysantas to Lydia and Ionia, Adusius to Karia (it was he for whom the Carians had petitioned), and Pharnuchos to Aeolia and Phrygia on the Hellespont. (8) He sent out no Persians as satraps over Cilicia or Kyprus or Paphlagonia, because these he thought joined his expedition against Babylon voluntarily. He did, however, require even these peoples to pay tribute. (9) As Cyrus then organized the service, so is it even to this day: the garrisons upon the citadels are immediately under the king’s control, and the colonels in command of the garrisons receive their appointment from the king and are enrolled upon the king’s list.

(10) Cyrus gave orders to all the satraps he sent out to imitate him in everything that they saw him do: they were, in the first place, to organize companies of cavalry and charioteers from the Persians who went with them and from the allies; they were to require as many as received lands and palaces to attend at the satrap’s court and exercising proper self-restraint to put themselves at his disposal in whatever he demanded; they were to have the boys that were born to them educated at the local court, just as was done at the royal court; and, they were to take the retinue at his gates out hunting and to exercise himself and them in the arts of war. . . [sections omitted].

(14) As Cyrus then effected his organization, even until today [ca. 370 BCE] all the garrisons under the king are kept up, and all the courts of the governors are attended with service in the same way. So all households, great and small, are managed. The most deserving of their guests are given preference with seats of honour by men in positions of authority. All the official travels are conducted on the same plan and all the political business is centralized in a few heads of departments. (15) When Cyrus had told them how they should proceed to carry out his instructions, he gave each one a force of soldiers and sent them off. He directed them all to make preparations, with the expectation that there would be an expedition the next year and a review of the men, arms, horses, and chariots.

(16) We have noticed also that this regulation is still in force, whether it was instituted by Cyrus, as they affirm [vague reference to sources that have been used throughout], or not. Year after year a man makes the circuit of the provinces with an army, to help any satrap that may need help, to humble any one that may be growing rebellious, and to adjust matters if any one is careless about seeing the taxes paid or protecting the inhabitants, or to see that the land is kept under cultivation, or if anyone is neglectful of anything else that he has been ordered to attend to. But if he cannot set it right, it is his business to report it to the king, and he, when he hears of it, takes measures in regard to the offender. Those of whom the report often goes out that “the king’s son is coming,” or “the king’s brother” or “the king’s eye,” these belong to the circuit commissioners. Though sometimes they do not put in an appearance at all, for each of them turns back, wherever he may be, when the king commands.

(17) We have observed still another device of Cyrus to cope with the large size of his empire. By means of this institution he would speedily discover the condition of affairs, no matter how far distant they might be from him. He experimented to find out how great a distance a horse could cover in a day when ridden hard but so as not to break down, and then he erected post-stations at just such distances and equipped them with horses and men to take care of them. At each one of the stations he had the proper official appointed to receive the letters that were delivered and to forward them on, to take in the exhausted horses and riders and send on fresh ones. (18) They say, moreover, that sometimes this express delivery system does not stop all night, but the night-messengers succeed the day-messengers in relays. When that is the case, some say that this express delivery system gets over the ground faster than the cranes. If their story is not literally true, it is at all events undeniable that this is the fastest overland travelling on earth. It is a fine thing to have immediate intelligence about everything in order to attend to it as quickly as possible.

(19) Now, when the year had gone round, he collected his army together at Babylon, containing, it is said, about one hundred and twenty thousand horse, about two thousand scythe-bearing chariots and about six hundred thousand foot.

[Conquering expeditions and the extent of the Persian empire]

(20) When these had been made ready for him, he started out on that expedition on which he is said to have subjugated all the peoples that fill the earth from Syria all the way to the Erythraian sea [i.e. Arabian Sea]. His next expedition is said to have gone to Egypt and to have subjugated that country also. (21) From that time on his empire was bounded on the east by the Erythraian sea, on the north by the Euxeinos sea [Black Sea], on the west by Kypros and Egypt, and on the south by Ethiopia. The extremes of his empire are uninhabitable, on the one side because of the heat, on another because of the cold, on another because of too much water, and on the fourth because of too little. (22) Cyrus himself made his home in the centre of his domain. And in the winter season he spent seven months in Babylon [near modern Baghdad], for there the climate is warm. In the spring he spent three months in Susa [now Shush in Iran], and in the height of summer two months in Ekbatana [near Hamadan, Iran]. By so doing, they say, he enjoyed the warmth and coolness of perpetual spring-time.

(23) People, moreover, were so devoted to him that those of every people thought they did themselves an injury if they did not send to Cyrus the most valuable productions of their country, whether the fruits of the earth, or animals bred there, or manufactures of their own arts. Every city did the same. every private individual thought he would become a rich man if he would do something to please Cyrus. His theory was correct. For Cyrus would always accept what was sent due to abundance, and he would give in return that of which he saw that they were in want. . . [tales of Cyrus’ old age and death omitted].


[Supplement (by a later author) which contrasts to the positive portrayals of Xenophon and emphasizes the deterioration of customs after Cyrus’ death]

8 (1) That Cyrus’s empire was the greatest and most glorious of all the kingdoms in Asia (the empire itself is its own witness). For it was bounded on the east by the Erythraian sea [Indian ocean in this case], on the north by the Euxeinos sea [Black Sea], on the west by Kypros and Egypt, and on the south by Ethiopia. Although it was of such an immense size, it was governed by the single will of Cyrus. He honoured his subjects and cared for them as if they were his own children. They, on their part, reverenced Cyrus as a father. (2) Still, as soon as Cyrus was dead, his children at once fell into dissension, communities and peoples began to revolt, and everything began to deteriorate.

[Rise of impiety]

That what I say is the truth, I will prove, beginning with [Persian] teachings on matters relating to the gods. I know, for example, that in early times the kings and their officers, in their dealings with even the worst offenders, would abide by an oath that they might have given, and be true to any pledge they might have made. (3) For had they not had such a character for honour, and had they not been true to their reputation, no one would have trusted them in the same way  that that not a single person any longer trusts them now that their lack of character is notorious. The generals of the Greeks who joined the expedition of Cyrus the Younger [satrap of Lydia and Ionia, ca. 408-401 BCE] would not have had such confidence in them even on that occasion. But, as it was, trusting in the previous reputation of the Persian kings, they placed themselves in the king’s power, were led into his presence, and had their heads cut off. As well, many of the barbarians who joined that expedition went to their doom, some deluded by one promise, others by another.

[Decline in leadership]

(4) But at the present time they are still worse, as the following will show: if, for example, any one in the olden days risked his life for the king, or if any one reduced a city-state or a people to submission to him, or effected anything else of good or glory for him, such a person received honour and favour. Now, on the other hand, if any one seems to bring some advantage the king by evil-doing (whether as Mithradates [II, king of Pontos, ca. 250-210] did, by betraying his own father Ariobarzanes [king of Pontos, ca. 266-250 BCE], or as a certain Rheomithres [satrap of Persis ca. 330 BCE] did, in violating his most sacred oaths and leaving his wife and children and the children of his friends behind as hostages in the power of the king of Egypt), such people are the ones who now have the highest honours heaped upon them. (5) Witnessing such a state of morality, all the inhabitants of Asia have been turned to wickedness and wrong-doing. For, whatever the character of the rulers is, such also that of the people under them for the most part becomes. In this respect they are now even more unprincipled than before.

[Rise of dishonesty]

(6) In money matters, too, they are more dishonest in this particular: they arrest not merely those who have committed many offences, but even those who have done no wrong, and against all justice compel them to pay fines. So those who are supposed to be rich are kept in a state of terror no less than those who have committed many crimes. They are no more willing than wrong-doers are to come into close relations with their superiors in power. In fact, they do not even venture to enlist in the royal army. (7) Accordingly, because of their impiety toward the gods and their iniquity toward man, any one who is engaged in war with them can, if he wants, range up and down their country without having to strike a blow. Their principles are in every respect worse now than they were in antiquity.

[Decline of banqueting and other customs]

(8) In the next place, as I will now show, they do not care for their physical strength as they used to do. For example, it used to be their custom neither to spit nor to blow the nose. It is obvious that they observed this custom not for the sake of saving the moisture in the body, but from the wish to harden the body by labour and perspiration. But now the custom of refraining from spitting or blowing the nose still continues, but they never give themselves the trouble to work off the moisture in some other direction. (9) In former times it was their custom to eat only once a day, so that they might devote the whole day to business and hard work. Now, to be sure, the custom of eating once a day still prevails, but they begin to eat at the hour when those who breakfast earliest begin their morning meal, and they keep on eating and drinking until the hour when those who stay up late go to bed. (10) They had also the custom of not bringing pots into their banquets, evidently because they thought that if one did not drink to excess, both mind and body would be less uncertain. So even now the custom of not bringing in the pots still obtains. However, they drink so much that, instead of carrying anything in, they are themselves carried out when they are no longer able to stand straight enough to walk out. (11) Again, this also was a native custom of theirs, neither to eat nor drink while on a march, nor yet to be seen doing any of the necessary consequences of eating or drinking. Even yet that same abstinence prevails, but they make their journeys so short that no one would be surprised at their ability to resist those calls of nature.

[Decline of hunting]

(12) Again, in times past they used to go out hunting so often that the hunts afforded sufficient exercise for both men and horses. But since king Artaxerxes and his court became the victims of wine, they have neither gone out themselves in the old way nor taken the others out hunting. On the contrary, if any one often went hunting with his friends out of sheer love for physical exertion, the courtiers would not hide their jealousy and would hate him as presuming to be a better man than they.

[Decline of education]

(13) Again, it is still the custom for the boys to be educated at court. But instruction and practice in horsemanship have died out, because there are no occasions on which they may give an exhibition and win distinction for skill. While in the old days the boys used to hear cases at law justly decided and so to learn justice, as they believed, that also has been entirely reversed. For now they see all too clearly that whichever party gives the larger bribe wins the case. (14) The boys of that time also used to learn the properties of the products of the earth, so as to avail themselves of the useful ones and keep away from those that were harmful. But now it looks as if they learned them only in order to do as much harm as possible. At any rate, there is no place where more people die or lose their lives from poisons than there.

[Supposed effeminacy learned from Medes]

(15) Furthermore, they are much more effeminate now than they were in Cyrus’s day. For at that time they still adhered to the old discipline and the old abstinence that they received from the Persians, but adopted the Median garb and Median luxury. On the contrary, now they are allowing the rigour of the Persians to die out, while they keep up the effeminacy of the Medes. (16) I should like to explain their effeminacy more in detail. In the first place, they are not satisfied with only having their couches upholstered with down, but they actually set the posts of their beds upon carpets. This way the floor may offer no resistance but that the carpets may slide. Again, whatever sorts of bread and pastry for the table had been discovered before they keep eating, but they also keep on inventing something new in addition. It is the same way with meats. For in both branches of cookery they actually have artists to invent new dishes.

(17) Again, in winter they are not satisfied with having clothing on their heads and bodies and legs, but they must have also sleeves thickly lined to the very tips of their fingers, and gloves as well. In summer, on the other hand, they are not satisfied with the shade afforded by the trees and rocks, but amid these they have people stand by them to provide artificial shade. (18) They take great pride also in having as many cups as possible. But they are not ashamed if it transpire that they came by them by dishonest means, for dishonesty and sordid love of gain have greatly increased among them. (19) Furthermore, it used to be an ancient native custom not to be seen going anywhere on foot. That was for no other purpose than to make themselves as knightly as possible. But now they have more coverings upon their horses than upon their beds, for they do not care so much for knighthood as for a soft seat.

[Military decline]

(20) So is it not to be expected that in military prowess they should be completely inferior to what they used to be? In times past it was their native custom that those who held lands should furnish cavalrymen from their possessions and that these, in case of war, should also take the field, while those who performed outpost duty in defence of the country received pay for their services. But now the rulers make knights out of their porters, bakers, cooks, cup-bearers, bath-room attendants, butlers, waiters, and chamberlains who assist them in retiring at night and in rising in the morning. With regard to beauty, there are doctors who pencil their eyes and rouge their cheeks for them and otherwise beautify them. These are the sort that they make into knights to serve for pay for them. (21) From such recruits, therefore, a host is obtained, but they are of no use in war. That is clear from actual occurrences: for enemies may range up and down their land with less hindrance than friends.

(22) For Cyrus had abolished skirmishing at a distance, had armed both horses and men with breastplates, had put a javelin into each man’s hand, and had introduced the method of fighting hand to hand. But now they neither skirmish at a distance any longer, nor yet do they fight in a hand-to-hand engagement. (23) The infantry still have their wicker shields and bills and sabres, just as those had who set the battle in array in the times of Cyrus. but not even they are willing to come into a hand-to-hand conflict. (24) Neither do they employ the scythed chariot any longer for the purpose for which Cyrus had it made. For he advanced the charioteers to honour and made them objects of admiration and so had men who were ready to hurl themselves against even a heavy-armed line. The officers of the present day, however, do not so much as know the men in the chariots, and they think that untrained drivers will be just as serviceable to them as trained charioteers. (25) Such untrained men do indeed charge, but before they penetrate the enemy’s lines some of them are unintentionally thrown out, some of them jump out on purpose, and so the teams without drivers often create more havoc on their own side than on the enemy’s. (26) However, insofar as they even understand what sort of material for war they have, they abandon the effort. no one ever goes to war any more without the help of Greek mercenaries, whether it is when they are at war with one another or when the Greeks initiate war against them. But even against Greeks they recognize that they can conduct their wars only with the assistance of Greeks.

[Conclusion to supplement by another author]

(27) I think now that I have accomplished the task that I set before myself. For I maintain that I have proved that the Persians of the present day [evidently some time after 210 BCE, when this addition to Xenophon’s work was made] and those living in their dependencies are less reverent toward the gods, less dutiful to their relatives, less upright in their dealings with all men, and less brave in war than they were in the old days. But if any one should entertain an opinion contrary to my own, let him examine their deeds and he will find that these testify to the truth of my statements.



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