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Astyages’ Revenge – Four Levels of Interactions – Herodotus
Once King Astyages had a nightmare. He dreamed that his unmarried daughter Mandane had watered so much that all of his city and Asia had beep flooded. When he contacted the Magi, they interpreted it as ominous. The king feared the prediction and got his daughter married off to a peace lobing Persian named Cambysis instead of giving her to Meda of higher status.
Another day he saw in his dream that a vine grew out of the private parts of his daughter and shaded the whole of Asia. The Magi warned the king that the dream indicated that his daughter’s son would dethrone him in the future. So he summoned his pregnant daughter and when she delivered a son, he ordered Harpagus, his steward, to kill and bury the boy. He also warned him against mishandling of the case. Hapagus had to obey the king’s orders. But he wanted to have the child killed by one of king’s slaves and keep himself clear of this sin. The old king had no son and there was every possibility that the crown would be heired by his daughter. He feared what his condition would be when Mandane came to know that he had killed her son.
Then, as per his plan, he summoned one of king’s cowherd’s named Mitradates. He grazed his flocks in pastures and also in mountains where wild beasts were most common. He ordered the cowherd to take that baby along with him. Also, he told him that it was the king’s order that he had to expose the child among the wild beasts and let it die, and bury it.
The cowherd went home and told his problem to his wife. She suggested that they should not kill that boy. Then, she had just given birth to a dead baby. She proposed to expose her still-born baby to wild beasts to save the child her husband had brought. They did according to their plan. Nobody suspected. Astyage’s daughter’s song was brought up by the cowherd. Nobody knew that Cyrus was a roayal blood.
One day ten years old Cyrus played a game with village children. They made him their ‘king’ in that game. He had servants, attendant ministers, etc. Everybody obeyed his commands except a nobleman’s son. Cyrus ordered others to beat the nobleman’s son. The probleman complained to Astyages against the cowherd’s mischievous son Cyrus.
Astyages summoned the cowherd and cyrus. Whe he saw the boy king was ‘cisited by kind of recognition. He clearly felt the difference in Cyrus’s coice manners, face etc. When he asked the cowherd about the boy orignial identity, the slave confessed eveything. Astyages called Harpagus his steward, and asked him all about it. Harpagus told his king what he had done to dispose off the body.
In his mind, the king had decided to take revenge upon Harpagus. He told Harpagus that it was his mistake that he had wanted to kill his grandson and asked him to send his own son to the palace earlier and him to follow later for the dinner. Harpagus did as he was asked to.
When Harpagus had his share of royal feast, he was asked to uncover content. To his horror, he saw his son’s served head, hands and legs. He had eaten his son’s flesh in the feast. But he told the king nothing for killing his son, took the remains of his song for burial.
The Astyages sought advice from the same Magi after telling them everything that had happened until then. The Magi opined that the boy might not become a king then as the ominous dream had issued in something trifling. The king felt safe.
Therefore, the king sent the boy back to his original parents: his sister Mandane and the loving Persian Cambyses. The boy came to know from the escort about Astyage’s plan to kill him long ago. The boy’s parents became happy. Harpagus tried to make friends with growing up Cyrus so that he could take his own revenge upon Astyages.
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