227 MEDIA--CIVIL AND MILITARY ANNALS.
stipend was imposed after the manner of civilized states, and Cyaxares was allowed to retain his crown, tributary to his conqueror. Doubtless the easy terms imposed by the triumphant barbarians was due to the fact that their incursion arose rather from the inspiration of the plunder than the lust of conquest, Albeit, the character of Media as a cold and upland region, with little accumulated wealth, was not such as to entice or long retain a horde of the hungry and omnivorous beasts from beyond the Caucasus. The low-lying plains of the south-west, rich in fields of pulse and vineyards, were better calculated to appease the unappeasable maws of such savages.
The condition was now that of foreign domination and terrorism. The Scythians after their manner pitched their tents here and there over the country. Their flocks and herds were pastured on the lands of the subject Medes, who with mixed feelings of hatred and fear found themselves unable to thwart or stay the fierce wills of the barbaric leeches that had fastened on the veins of their country. The roving habits of the oppressors carried them from one region to another. The walled town was about the only refuge for the galled and desperate Medes, who were afraid to offer resistance either by stratagem or open revolt.
For some years the reign of terror continued until the Scyths by dispersion into various provinces became less of a scourge--less imminently dangerous to the subject people. By and by the invaders filed off in large numbers into Assyria, Babylonia, and Palestine, renewing their ravages everywhere to the very gates of Egypt. Many bands remained under their chiefs in Media, but the native subjects of Cyaxares began to breathe more easily, and their long smothered wrath rose in proportion as the danger disappeared. In this juncture of affairs the king himself determined to set the example of revenge and destruction.
Cyaxares made a feast. Treachery was mixed in the cups. The appetite of the Scythians became the means of their ruin and overthrow. The invited chiefs were plied with drink until they lay stupid,
whereupon the hidden bands of armed Medes broke into the banquet hall, and slew them all without mercy. The incensed people took up what weapons so ever they could, and hewed right and left in a war of extermination. No records have been preserved of the struggle. It is known only that the Scythians were completely overwhelmed. Those who escaped the avengers hand were driven through the passes of the Caucasus into their native haunts. So complete was the overthrow that scarcely a trace of the foreign domination remained in the country which the barbarians had held and ravaged for a period of years.
As soon as the Scythians had ceased to be a terror, the Medes renewed their project of invading Assyria. That great Empire had fallen into decrepitude. Saracus, the reigning monarch, was an unworthy successor of those mighty kings who for centuries had dominated the better parts of Western Asia. The outskirts of the kingdom lay open and invited attack. The resources at the command of Saracus were as little adequate to supply the means of resistance as was the king capable of hurling back an invader. As soon as Cyaxares could muster and discipline his forces, he entered upon the cherished plan of Assyrian subjugation.
At this time the vice royalty of Chaldaea, which had been a dependency of Assyria for more than a half century, had recovered in some measure the influence and renown of her pristine era. The Assyrian yoke, though not especially galling, was never- theless a yoke. No insurrections had occurred; but with the decadence of Assyria the elements centering at Babylon were rife for mischief. In this condition of affairs the Median invasion, led by Cyaxares in person, was precipitated. Before beginning his campaign, however, the king of the Medes took the precaution to test the loyalty of the Babylonian viceroy. That notable was in no mood to be virtuous, and readily yielded to the overtures of the Median king. It. was arranged that an army of revolting Babylonians should march up the Tigris