1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cyaxares

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CYAXARES (Pers. Uvakhshatra), king of Media, reigned according to Herodotus (i. 107) forty years, about 624–584 B.C. That he was the real founder of the Median empire is proved by the fact that in Darius’s time a Median usurper, Fravartish, pretended to be his offspring (Behistun inscr. 2. 43); but about his history we know very little. Herodotus narrates (i. 103 ff.) that he renewed the war against the Assyrians, in which his father Phraortes had perished, but was, while he besieged Nineveh, attacked by a great Scythian army under Madyas, son of Protothyes, which had come from the northern shores of the Black Sea in pursuit of the Cimmerians. After their victory over Cyaxares, the Scythians conquered and wasted the whole of western Asia, and ruled twenty-eight years, till at last they were made drunk and slain by Cyaxares at a banquet (cf. another story about Cyaxares and a Scythian host in Herod, i. 73). As we possess scarcely any contemporary documents it is impossible to find out the real facts. But we know from the prophecies of Jeremiah and Zephaniah that Syria and Palestine were really invaded by northern barbarians in 626 B.C., and it is probable that this invasion was the principal cause of the downfall of the Assyrian empire (see Media and Persia: Ancient History).

After the destruction of the Scythians Cyaxares regained the supremacy, renewed his attack on Assyria, and in 606 B.C. destroyed Nineveh and the other capitals of the empire (Herod. i. 106; Berossus ap. Euseb. Chron. i. 29, 37, confirmed by a stele of Nabonidus found in Babylon: Scheil in Recueil de travaux, xviii.; Messerschmidt, “Die Inschrift der Stele Nabonaids,” in Mitteilungen der vorderasiatischen Gesellschaft, i., 1896). According to Berossus he was allied with Nabopolassar of Babylon, whose son Nebuchadrezzar married Amyitis, the daughter of the Median king (who is wrongly called Astyages). The countries north and east of the Tigris and the northern part of Mesopotamia with the city of Harran (Carrhae) became subject to the Medes. Armenia and Cappadocia were likewise subdued; the attempt to advance farther into Asia Minor led to a war with Alyattes of Lydia. The decisive battle, in the sixth year, was interrupted by the famous solar eclipse on the 28th of May 585 predicted by Thales. Syennesis of Cilicia and Nebuchadrezzar (in Herodotus named Labynetus) of Babylon interceded and effected a peace, by which the Halys was fixed as frontier between the two empires, and Alyattes’s daughter married to Cyaxares’s son Astyages (Herod. i. 74). If Herodotus’s dates are correct, Cyaxares died shortly afterwards.

In a fragmentary letter from an Assyrian governor to King Sargon (about 715 B.C.) about rebellions of Median chieftains, a dynast Uvakshatar (i.e. Cyaxares) is mentioned as attacking an Assyrian fortress (Kharkhar, in the chains of the Zagros). Possibly he was an ancestor of the Median king.

(Ed. M.)