Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

king. No sooner was this proved, than some of the most eminent nobles conspired together and slew the impostor in the palace where he had been concealed from the beginning of his reign. It was easier, however, to put Smerdis and his Magi to death than to create another monarch. There was no male descendant of the great Cyrus to put upon the throne, and the new sovereign must needs be chosen from amongst the noble families, to one of which Cyrus had himself belonged. The conspirators met to take counsel with one another; but the language they are reported to have used is not readily recognized as appropriate to men who were nobles by birth, and subjects by education of an absolute master. The Greek historian wrote of Persia, perhaps, as he would of Greece; but if the discourses he imputes to three of the seven conspirators be interpreted according to the Persian spirit,” it appears that one argued for giving all the higher families a share in the government, another that a few only of these families should be admitted to participate in the new establishment, while the third contended for the restoration of the same monarchy to which their forefathers had submitted from time immemorial. This third conspirator was the famous Darius Hystaspis; and though the harangue which Herodotus ascribes to him may never have been uttered, it contains some sentences that are perfectly suitable to illustrate the view we may still take of the Persian monarchy. “I maintain,” said Darius, “that monarchy is far preferable to any other kind of authority. None are better to rule than the individual who has been taken as the best of all; and his opinions will, without reproach, direct the affairs of the whole people. If the main body govern, vice must creep in, and the bad will act together until some one of their number shall be strong enough to put them down, and to take the government into his own hands. Whence came our liberty, and who gave it us? I answer, Cyrus. Then, as we became freemen through a single man, I do advise that we keep to the same unbroken power, and to the good laws which we have from our ancestors.” We need not stay to criticize the principles of the Persian noble, or to remark that the liberty of which he spoke was the liberty of one class only amongst many. His advice prevailed, and Darius himself was chosen king.” “Consider,” wrote Plato,” within a little more than a century after these events had taken place, “Consider the results of this revolution. . . . . . Darius was no sooner master of the empire, by the consent of his fellow-conspirators, than he divided it into seven portions, of which feeble traces still remain. He then established laws to which he subjected his own authority, and by which a sort of equality was introduced. He confirmed union and intercourse between the Persians, and won their hearts by gifts and kindnesses. So they willingly aided him in all his wars, in which he acquired as many countries as Cyrus had left when he died.” In this brief passage are contained all the points of importance concerning the Persian institutions. We have the power of the king, tempered by his own laws as well as by the influence of his nobles and the intelligence of his people; we have the nobles predominant over the people, but the people rising in presence of the nobles; we have the wars, also, and the conquests, by which the Persians, as a race, preserved themselves superior to the other nations of the empire. These things we will now examine, excepting so far as we have already inquired into them; and the reign of Darius” shall be the period of our research, for reasons to appear, in part, hereafter. The Persian monarchy was not only most firmly established, but is now to be most fairly judged, as it was under Darius Hystaspis. The authority of the king was as absolute, according to the system which Darius can be said only to have confirmed, as it had been at the time of its first establishment. But we have already seen that deductions are to be made from the statements of writers who were unable or unwilling to acknowledge the checks upon despotism apparently the most unbridled; as in Persia from the strength of a nobility, or, as in the Grecian tyrannies, from the character of a people. The Persian nobles have perhaps been described as well as they can be with our meagre means, in the preceding pages. They were especially the members of the Persian court, and, in time, of the Persian priesthood, the freemen of the nation, according to Oriental rules. Below them were the various classes” of husbandmen, artisans, and slaves, of whom the last were not, however, considered as natives of Persia, though born upon Persian soil. The first two were the retainers of the nobility at home and their followers in war, and though by no means free with respect either to their superiors or to the sovereign, yet, in comparison with the subject nations of the empire, they were, as will immediately appear, an independent and a favored race. It is difficult, however, to measure the Persian spirit generally by any decided standard, on account of the vicissitudes to which it was exposed. In conflict and in intercourse with more polished nations, the conquerors under Cyrus and his successors would

30 Such is Heeren's explanation is upon the Persians. Wol. I. sect. 2, in his great work, one part of which ch. 1.

31 A. C. 521. He was elected through mere artifice by the con

Justinus, who lived under Augustus the emperor, composed a history,

spirators; but was then accepted by the nation or the nobility at large, — Justin (I. 19) says the people: “Populus quoque universus, sequutus judicium principum, eundem regem constituit.”

or rather a selection from the History of Trogus Pompeius, concerning all the principal nations of antiquity.

32 In the Laws, Lib. III.

33 He reigned thirty-five years: A. C. 520–486.

learn, with as much speed

as they had used in their marches, to imitate the labors and the luxuries they beheld around them. Three periods may nevertheless be distinguished in their history: the first being the period of the mountaineers, the second of the warriors, and the third of the masters, which, under Darius Hystaspis, was actually arrived. The Persians, peasants as well as nobles, were all affected by the change from one to another period. Life upon mountains was very different from life upon battlefields; nor could the simple though boisterous people that Cyrus led preserve the qualities on which he had relied, when they became the superior nation of a thickly and a variously peopled empire. Their love of freedom, strange as it may appear, declined with the love of war, in whose fervors their glory as a race began and in whose ashes it expired. The fair side of such a history was necessarily of narrow extent, compared with its darker side. But on crossing the line which divides Persia from its provinces, there is scarcely a ray of light athwart the deeper gloom. The Persians, for instance, were bound to no tribute;” but of the twenty provinces annexed to the land of the victors, on the principle that all Asia belonged to it,” each had its tributes to pay and its grinding services to perform.” The

34 There was an early tradition, that Djemsheed, one of the herokings, divided his people into four classes: — 1. Priests and Teachers; 2. Registers and Writers; 3. Soldiers; 4. Husbandmen, Artisans, and Tradesmen. Malcolm's Persia, Vol. I. ch. 2. It is not necessary to make any details here, like those we were obliged to enter upon with

regard to Egypt and India, because, though there were classes, there were no castes, in Persia. See, however, the account which Herodotus gives (I. 125) of the three agricultural and the three nomadic tribes, and compare the description of the classes in the Zend-Avesta; Anquetil, Tom. I. ptie. 2, pp. 141,389 et

seq.

35 Herod., III. 97.

36 Ibid., I. 4. So, at III. 88: — “All the people of Asia, except the Arabians, were subject to Darius.”

A passage from Esdras will illustrate both the superiority of the Persians over their provinces and the supremacy of the king over all : —

WOL. I. 11

“Do not men excel in strength, that
bear rule over sea and land and all
things in them? But yet the king
is more mighty: for he is lord of all
these things, and hath dominion over
them; and whatsoever he command-
eth them, they do.” IV. 2, 3.
37 Herod., III. 89. Nor only com-

« НазадПродовжити »