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335 PERSIA-MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.

and inevitable protest of love over lust. It is not improbable that such queens as Atossa,

Amestris, and Statira retained through life an honorable preeminence in the esteem of

their lords, and that in their presence and companionship such kings as Hystaspis, Xerxes,

and Codomanus may have realized the essential badness of the system which they had

inherited. The Persian queen, however, never shared her husband's authority: she had

influence, but no power. The other wives-who must always be selected from noble families-

had the title of consort, and were thus in some measure superior to the miserable group of

concubines below them. It was, however, a sad and dubious preeminence, which in its nature

could bring neither honor nor happiness to those who possessed it.

One important feature of the government, as related to the social system of the Persians,

was the influence of the Queen- Mother-should there be one-in the affairs of state. In

cases where the queen out- lived her lord she did not, to be sure, after his death inherit

the crown. That went to her son. But, instead of being retired to a position less

honorable than that which she had held during the king's life, she was raised in dignity

and influence. She was given charge of the Gynaeceum or establishment for the women, and

in this important office wielded an authority over the queen, her daughter-in-law. Her

son, the king, was as yet, in all likelihood, a youth, and was by no means from under the

natural influence of his mother; so that to secure her interest and favor was one of the

most vital points in the diplomacy of courtiers and ambassadors. It is not impossible that

this ascendancy of the Queen- Mother in the affairs of state and over that native hot-bed

of discontent-the Gynaeceum-was specially conservative and salutary.

The common service of the harem was committed to the eunuchs. Of these there were great

numbers about the court. The king's attendants were largely of this class. They were

multiplied as the government became elaborate. From some reason quite inconceivable in

modern times, their

influence increased. They became a directing power in the state. Many of them were the

king's trusted counselors, and were held in high honor. They had in charge the education

of the princes of the Empire, and several of them are said by Ctesias to have

distinguished themselves as generals in the field. They are represented, however, as being

of an intriguing and ambitious disposition, and to have been at the bottom of many court

broils and assassinations. In spite of the influence and distinction attained by this

despicable class of beings, it appears that in one respect they were publicly dishonored:

in the sculptures of Persepolis not a single figure of a eunuch occurs. Neither they nor

any woman-not even the queen-was deemed worthy of the immortality of art.

The Persians recognized seven royal- or at least princely-houses. The members of these

constituted the nobility of the Empire. The first of these great houses was the

Achaemenian, to which belonged the great kings. This family was, of course preeminent over

all the rest. Each of the princely houses had its own head or chief, and the seven

together constituted the body known as the "Seven Counselors" of the king. They had much

independent influence. Their right to advise was in virtue of their birth. They might seek

the presence of the monarch at any time and in any place except the Gynaeceum. At public

festivals they sat by right next to the sovereign, and in important business of state they

shared in some measure the responsibility of the king's edicts and proclamations-not,

however, to the extent of touching upon his absolute and inalienable prerogatives.

The ceremonial of the Persian court was formal and elaborate. He who would have audience

with the sovereign must be introduced by the usher of the royal household and must

prostrate himself before the king. He who came unannounced was subject to death. The

carpet which was laid for the monarch's feet might not be touched by any other. To sit

down even unwittingly on the throne was a capital crime. Robes which the king had worn

might never be