234 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
ment of manners, and especially to be indoctrinated with the lesson of subordination to the powerful monarch to whom he himself, on his accession to the throne of Persia, was expected to be a loyal subject.
It sometimes happens, however, that a young man of genius learns more than is intended by his masters. He may come to apprehend that they are living upon the renown of the past, that their wisdom is dust, and their lessons slavery. So thought Cyrus at the court of the king of the Medes. A reign of vice had succeeded a reign of vigor. The luxury of Assyria had effeminated both the king and his subjects.
The young prince of barbaric Persia was himself fresh from the hills. He despised the kind of life which he beheld around him. He saw the great king of the Medes immersed in banquets, attended by a retinue of despicable eunuchs, caressed by concubines, and amused by dancing-girls. Ecbatana was a revel, and the king's palace a. debauch. Moreover, the simple religious faith, of Cyrus, schooled as he had been in the doctrines of Zoroaster, was shocked with what appeared to him the hollow mockeries of Magism. His father's hpuse, the Achaemenian princes of Persia, taught not, tolerated not, the gross and unspiritual practices of the Priests of the Fire. Doubtless Ahura-Mazdaowas angry at the Median idolatries, and was only waiting to destroy.
In these circumstances Cyrus, pent up at the court of Astyages, found abundant food for religious thoughts. He longed to escape from his surroundings, and to lead an insurrection in honor of his country and his religion. His position, however, was virtually that of a hostage, and he was jealously watched and guarded. In his anxiety he applied to Astyages for leave to return to Persia. He alleged that his father, the Persian king, was old and feeble, and required to be cared for by his son and heir. Astyages refused the plea. He so greatly admired and loved the youth that he could not endure his absence from the palace! Cyrus thereupon sought an intercessor. A favorite attendant of the king pleaded with him that the young man might be allowed to depart. Permission
was at length obtained, and with a few attendants the prince set out from the Median capital.
The mind of the fearful is always haunted with dread and superstition. After the departure of Cyrus, Astyages sat at a banquet. The wine flowed, and the dancing-girls were merry. The king demanded a song. One of the girls-or as sortie say, a minstrel-took up a lyre and chanted this ominous prophecy:
The lion once had the wild boar in his hall,
But he let him depart to his own; He has broken the meshes that held him thrall. And, behold, how the boar has grown.
He will wax, and grow great, and return at length,
And the lion has need to defend, For the boar will overmatch him in courage and strength, And tear him in pieces and rend!
The king of the Medes was not so drunken as to hear this prophecy with equanimity. He was thrown into alarm, and instantly ordered a company of his guards to follow Cyrus and bring him back to the palace. The prince was overtaken and captured. The king's orders were made known, and Cyrus consented to return. That night, however, he made his captors a feast, and while they were in the stupor of drink he mounted his horse and escaped to the outposts of Persia. There he took command of a body of soldiers, and when the guards of Astyages, awaking to find their prisoner fled, pursued and again overtook the fugitive, it was only to find him at the head of a force equal to their own, to be routed by him and driven back into Media. Cyrus then made good his escape to his father's court and found protection in the Persian army.
Astyages was terrified and enraged at the result. He beat his body and very properly declared himself a fool for having yielded to the solicitations of his courtier and permitted the escape of Cyrus from his clutches. He resolved, however, to recover by force the advantage which he had lost by carelessness. He summoned his generals and immediately gave orders for a great invasion of Persia. The largest Median army ever mustered was at once collected. Tradition numbers three thousand war-chariots, two hundred thousand