of Cyrus the Great
Astyages was the supposed maternal grandfather
of Cyrus. Astyages had a dream that his daughter, Mandane, produces so
much water that it overran his city and all of Asia. The magi, holy men,
interpreted this dream and warned Astyages of the consequences of his dream.
Astyages gave his daughter into marriage to a Persian, Cambyses. Cambyses
and Mandane were married for only a year when Astyages had another dream.
He saw a vine growing from the inside Mandane’s womb, which overshadowed
all of Asia. The magi told Astyages that Mandane’s son would seize his throne.
Therefore, the king kept his daughter under close watch, and at the birth
of his grandson, he gave the child to a Median nobleman, Harpagus. This
nobleman's instructions were to kill the infant. The nobleman, however;
could not kill the child himself, so he gave the baby to a royal herdsman.
The herdsman's wife had just given birth to a stillborn child. The herdsman's
wife convinced the herdsman to keep the royal baby as their own and show
Harpagus the corpse of the stillborn child.
One day, during a game with other children, Cyrus was chosen to play
as a king. He punished the son of a distinguished Mede who refused to take
his orders. The father of the beaten child complained to King Astyages. When
the king asked Cyrus why he had beaten the boy, Cyrus defended himself by
explaining that, because he was playing role of king, he had every reason
to punish someone who did not obey his command. Astyages knew immediately
that these words were not the words of a herdsman's son and realized that
the boy was the son of his daughter. The King punished Harpagus for his
disobedience by serving him the cooked remains of his own son's body at
a royal dinner. The magi advised Astyages to allow Cyrus to return to Persia
to his real parents.
Harpagus vowed that he would avenge his son's death and encouraged
Cyrus to seize his grandfather's throne. Cyrus persuaded a number of Persian
tribes to side with him to throw off the yoke of Astyages and the Medes.
Cyrus succeeded in overthrowing his grandfather and became the ruler of
the united Persians and Medes.