233 MEDIA-CIVIL AND MILITARY ANNALS.
brought him no heir. Other wives were sought; but no son came to the palace of Ecbatana. At last Tigrania, a beautiful princess from Armenia, sister of Tigranes, king of that country, was given to the Median king; but no son came with the gift. So as the monarch grew old, it seemed not improbable that the throne would be left without an occupant--a calamity to be greatly dreaded in those times and countries, where the king is the state. Nor is it unlikely that in the present instance the childlessness of Astyages was a circumstance of his final overthrow.
In civil affairs the method of government adopted by the Median kings differed not greatly from that of Assyria. The general character of the royal court was the same as that of Nineveh. The monarch, except when called forth to war, was not seen in public. His seclusion was guarded by an elaborate retinue of court officers-mostly eunuchs. In dress the luxurious style of the Ninevite kings was adopted. Long robes of costly texture adorned the bodies of the courtiers, and the sovereign himself was magnificent. The halls of the palace flashed with many-colored garments, red and purple, adorned with gold and gems. The wrists of the officers were clasped with thick bracelets, and their necks with heavy chains.
An audience with the king of Media could only be obtained through an elaborate ceremony. The monarch had one officer called his "Eye." Another high worthy had the duty of conducting strangers into the majestic presence. A third bore his cups; a fourth was his herald. After these were the guards of the palace, the torchbearers, and the ushers according to their several ranks.
As in Assyria, the chief sport of the monarchs of Media was hunting; and to this end public parks were established near the capital, into which were brought multitudes of wild animals, such as the kingly fancy delighted to pursue. At intervals the somewhat restricted excitements of the parks were exchanged for the freedom of the open country, when the king and his court went forth to hunt at will.
One of the principal events of the reign of Cyaxares had been the establishment of Magism as the court religion. The priests of this faith were held in the highest honor, and they made themselves constantly necessary to the superstition of the royal household. The king's dreams must be interpreted. Omens and portents must be explained. Matters of state policy must be laid before the supernal powers. Who but the Magi should attend to these mysterious offices? Astyages, like his father, encouraged this priestly caste; gave them honors; made them influential in his government. Thus was developed in the state another antecedent of its destruction. For, as presently will be seen, religious zeal against the prevailing customs of the court fired the enemies of Astyages in the day of his overthrow.
As the unwarlike king of the Modes grew old, destiny prepared for him and his kingdom a common catastrophe. Up to this time the kingdom of Persia, lying to the south and east of Media, had attracted but little attention from any of the surrounding nations. What the relations of that country were to the Median monarchy under Cyaxares is not very clear. Perhaps the Persians, governed by native rulers, had held a sort of natural dependence on the court of Ecbatana. Being of the same race with the Medes they enjoyed some immunity from invasion. Indeed, there was less in the highlands of Persia to tempt the cupidity of a conqueror than in almost any other of the regions bordering on the Median Empire. The habits and manners of the two peoples were alike, and the general motives of war were for the most part wanting between them. No doubt there was a certain dependency-political, and perhaps tributary-of the Persian upon the Median kings, but the former as well as the latter were hereditary monarchs, and claimed distinguished relationships with the most honored royal families of Western Asia.
Such was the condition of affairs when, during the reign of Astyages, the young Persian prince CYRUS was a resident at the court of the Mede. He was here to observe, to be educated, to learn refine-