226 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
host of his countrymen, and the power of Assyria was soon overthrown as far west as the mountains. The Scythian tribes still infesting this border country were reduced to submission, and the able and fearless Cyaxares set about the organization of an independent kingdom. Making his head-quarters and capital close to the Zagros chain, he not only proved himself equal to the task of keeping the Assyrians at bay, but soon began to cast longing eyes through the mountain passes at the luxurious plains about Nineveh.
The political condition of Assyria was at this time of such sort as to invite invasion. Asshur-Bani-Pal, now in the thirty-fourth year of his reign, was, if not already in his dotage, less vigilant than in his youth. Perhaps there was mixed with the general lethargy a certain contempt of danger; for when had the big-muscled soldiers of Assyria had cause to fear an enemy? Nevertheless, an enemy was at the gate. Cyaxares, at the head of a large, courageous, but poorly disciplined army, poured through the mountains, and the Assyrian king was suddenly confronted with a host that could no longer be despised. But the aged monarch proved equal to the emergency. At the head of his army he met the Medes in the province of Adiabene. A severe battle was fought, in which the old-time prowess of Assyria triumphed over the naked courage of the mountain soldiery of Media. The army of Cyaxares was terribly routed, and fell back pell-mell through the passes of the Zagros. The king's father, PHRAORTES, who, before his son's accession, had been in some sort king of the Medes, was slain in the battle.
The disaster was to have been expected. The Median army was a mélange of half-barbarians. What could they do against the war chariots of Nineveh? Nothing but be mowed down like a harvest. Cyaxares was quick to take in the situation. He saw that his defeat was directly chargeable to the constitution of his forces. Every chief had come at the head of his own clan, armed according to the rude resources of his province. Horse and foot were mingled. Bows and arrows, and spears, and slings, and darts made a medley of impotent weaponry. The king would remedy this condition of affairs, and by breaking up and reforming these heterogeneous bands of warriors, would marshal forth an army. It was not long till the vigorous spirit of the monarch had pervaded and fired both soldiers and people. Discipline flashed along the ranks, and the sting of recent defeat kindled the anger of revenge. As soon as his mixed host of Medes and Scythians was brought into proper subordination, the king again set his face towards Assyria.
There was now an orderly invasion. Asshur-Bani-Pal took the field as before. The two armies met a short distance from Nineveh. The Assyrians were borne down before the new foe from the mountains, and were driven, after a decisive battle, behind the ramparts of the capital. Hard after them came the avenging Medes. A siege was begun, but before it had progressed to the extent of endangering the city, the attention of Cyaxares was suddenly recalled by a crisis in the affairs of his own country.
It was the SCYTHIANS. As already said, the southernmost tribes of this barbaric race had been easily subdued by the Medes. The two peoples south of the Caucasus had to some extent mingled together. A part of the army of Cyaxares was Scythic. But the great body of trans- Caucasian Scyths had felt only so much of this Median ascendancy as to excite resentment. The hostile feelings of the north gathered head. While Cyaxares was still engaged with the Assyrians beyond the Zagros, the Scythic host poured down into Azerbijan and headed for Ecbatana. But Cyaxares, hastily returning from Nineveh, confronted them and prepared for battle. A savage conflict ensued, in which the reckless audacity of the Scythians proved more than a match for the disciplined forces of the Medes. Cyaxares was defeated, and he and his subjects were compelled to seek refuge in the walled towns and to sue for peace. MADYS, the Scythic leader, dictated terms, which were less severe than might have been expected from a barbaric chieftain victorious in battle. An annual