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Nebuchadnezzar responded by invading Judah and began a siege of Jerusalem in December 589 BC. ... After the fall of Jerusalem, the Babylonian general, Nebuzaraddan, was sent to complete its destruction. Jerusalem was plundered, and Solomon's Temple was destroyed. Most of the elite were taken into captivity in Babylon.
Siege of Jerusalem (587 BC) - Wikipedia
Dan 11. 1; And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.
Dan 11. 2; “And now I will show you the truth. Behold, three more kings shall arise in Persia, and a fourth shall be far richer than all of them. And when he has become strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece.
Three more kings would arise in Persia after Cyrus
...Cambyses [530–522 b.c.],
...Bardiya , and
...Darius I Hystaspes [522–486]), and
then a fourth, who would be richer and more powerful than the others and would enter into conflict with Greece.
.. This fourth king was Xerxes I (486–464 b.c.), who invaded Greece, only to be defeated at the Battle of Salamis (480).
Ten years after subduing the Babylonians in 539 BCE, Cyrus turned his attention towards the northeastern part of the empire to bring “the Massagetae under his dominion. Now the Massagetae are said to be a great and warlike nation, dwelling eastward, toward the rising of the sun, beyond the river Araxes, and opposite the Issedonians. By many they are regarded as a Scythian race.”
Cyrus, seeing that had two options to consider, took the diplomatic approach first by sending ambassadors to Queen Tomyris, Massagetean ruler “with instructions to court her on his part, pretending that he wished to take her to wife.”
Tomyris as imagined by Castagno, 15th century.
Tomyris as imagined by Castagno, 15th century. (Public Domain)
As the Persian ambassadors crossed into Massagetae territory and approached Tomyris’ residence, she must have sent envoys of her own out to ask the Persian ambassadors as to why they had come. This was probably to check the men for weapons and question the reason for being there. After telling the Massagetae officials of their mission, it was relayed back to Tomyris. Tomyris, considering what they said, realized that it was “her kingdom, and not herself, that he courted.” Instead of hearing it from the Persian envoys, she “forbade the men to approach.” When the Persian envoys returned and informed Cyrus of her answer, he mustered his forces.
Cyrus lead his forces to the Jaxartes River, “and openly displaying his hostile intentions; set to work to construct a bridge on which his army might cross the river, and began building towers upon the boats which were to be used in the passage.” As the Persians were securing their passageways into Massagetae territory, envoys from Tomyris arrived to present Cyrus with a message which stated:
King of the Medes, cease to press this enterprise, for you cannot know if what you are doing will be of real advantage to you. Be content to rule in peace your own kingdom, and bear to see us reign over the countries that are ours to govern. As, however, I know you will not choose to hearken to this counsel, since there is nothing you less desires than peace and quietness, come now, if you are so mightily desirous of meeting the Massagetae in arms, leave your useless toil of bridge-making; let us retire three days’ march from the river bank, and do you come across with your soldiers; or, if you like better to give us battle on your side the stream, retire yourself an equal distance.
Cyrus considered this offer, called his advisors together, and made the argument before them. They all agreed to let “Tomyris cross the stream, and giving battle on Persian ground.” However not all were game to this idea. Croesus the Lydian, who was present at the meeting of the chiefs, disapproved of this advice, stating:
Now concerning the matter in hand, my judgment runs counter to the judgment of your other counselors. For if you agree to give the enemy entrance into your country, consider what risk is run! Lose the battle, and there with your whole kingdom is lost. For, assuredly, the Massagetae, if they win the fight, will not return to their homes, but will push forward against the states of your empire. Or, if you win the battle, why, then you win far less than if you were across the stream, where you might follow up your victory. For against your loss, if they defeat you on your own ground, must be set theirs in like case. Rout their army on the other side of the river, and you may push at once into the heart of their country. Moreover, were it not disgrace intolerable for Cyrus the son of Cambyses to retire before and yield ground to a woman?
Therefore, Cyrus agreed with Croesus that it would be best to face the Massagetae on their territory. Persian envoys delivered the message to Tomyris, stating “she should retire, and that he would cross the stream.” Tomyris thus moved her forces and awaited the Persian army. While he gathered his forces to cross the river, he named Cambyses II as the next king should Cyrus die.
Tomyris had her son, Spargapises lead a third of the Massagetae towards Cyrus’ forces. Cyrus left a small detachment behind with food and drink to lure the Massagetae, which they took, and then defeated the small Persian detachment and begin to eat and drink. Once the Massagetae became inebriated, the Persian forces fell on the camp and killed many, taking a few prisoners alive, including Tomyris’ son Spargapises. Spargapises, learning of what had happened, committed suicide. Tomyris, upon learning what had happened, considered the tactics of Cyrus as cowardly. Tomyris vowed revenge and Cyrus did not take heed to the warning. Cyrus pushed further into Massagetae territory where he and his forces met up with the Massagetae face to face. There are no details of the battle. One can speculate that the Massagetae won over the Persians using steppe tactics, which one would think Cyrus would have been accustomed to and able to defend against. However, whatever counter tactics Cyrus used, was all for nothing. The Massagetae won the battle, killed Cyrus, and recovered his body from the battlefield.
Queen Tomyris had the head of Cyrus cut from his body, which she dipped in blood as a symbolic act of revenge for her son, but also you could say she was giving Cyrus his fill as well. As to how much of this is truth and how much of this is fiction is up to the reader to decide. Herodotus does seem plausible in his account but he is not the only one.
Like all powerful men facing a boundless enterprise, Cyrus also had the chance to reflect and change his mind; but his hybris did not let him recognize the situation, so that the warning of the messenger of Tomyris to content himself with what he had (1.206.1) remained unheard. In this context, Croesus’s advice to carry the battle beyond the Araxes and to resort to an infamous ruse against the Massagetae proved that he was a fatal advisor (Erbse, 1992). Even a further and final warning against crossing the river left Cyrus unmoved. In a dream, he saw Darius wearing wings which cast a shadow over Asia and Europe (1.209.1). In this way the god not only pointed to the future successor and to the fact that he would be the man to carry Persian supremacy to Europe (Bichler, 1985b, pp. 128 f.), but also to the imminent death of Cyrus. However, the Great King misunderstood the dream and, fearing a revolt by Darius, sent his father Hystaspes to Susa to arrest Darius (1.209.2-5). Thus not only was the future usurper Darius kept alive (Bichler 2000b, p. 266), but the ensuing tribute paid to Cyrus by Hystaspes for having changed the Persians from remaining servants to becoming free men (1.210.2) can be interpreted as an anticipated obituary. Cyrus also ignored the last warning of Tomyris (1.212) that his fate would end in a fearful tragedy. Following a lost battle, his severed head was put into a bag full of blood, that being, according to Herodotus, the most credible variant among several stories about the death of the king (1.214).
Bibliography: See HERODOTUS xi. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY.
Originally Published: December 15, 2003
Last Updated: March 22, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. XII, Fasc. 3, pp. 260-262