Page 0336


put on by another. In short, every circumstance by which the artificial dignity and

elevation of the sovereign might be heightened and maintained was attended to with

scrupulous care.

live and eat alone. He must not be seen. He must not walk beyond the walls of the palace.

He must be infallibly consistent, even in inconsistency; for no edict once issued might

ever be revoked. The laws of the Medes and Persians were unchangeable.

Fortunate was it for the king that the rigor of precedent was sometimes relaxed in his

favor. Royal etiquette permitted him to hunt and to play at games. To the former he gave

himself with enthusiasm. It was the pride of the great Achaemenians to be distinguished in

the chase. To combat with a lion was a sport worthy of the king. To be victorious over the

fiercest and strongest creatures of the desert and mountain was an act worthy to be

engraved in stone and in the royal signet with which the edicts of authority were signed.

The favorite theme of Persian art is the monarch in his chariot, letting fly his unerring

arrows into the vitals of the king of beasts.

Tired of the hunt, the sovereign amused himself at dice. Not for the game only, but for

the wager, were the blocks thrown on the royal board. Plutarch is authority for the

statement that sometimes as much as a thousand darics were staked on a single throw.

Favorite slaves, eunuchs, and women were raffled for and lost and won in the reckless

excitements of the kingly gaming-table.

Persian royalty had no literary taste whatever. It is doubtful whether the monarch was an

expert reader. His secretary, however, had the duty of reading to him of the current

affairs of the kingdom and the history of the past. The examples and fame of preceding

sovereigns were thus rehearsed out of a work called the "Book of the Chronicles of the

Kings of Persia and Media," from which the reigning prince was expected to learn the

lessons of emulation and wisdom,

The annals of the common-life of the Persian people are meager and unsatisfactory. The

state was everything, and the king was the state. The full light which played upon the

throne was rarely turned to the common lot. The sculptures are almost wholly devoted to

the illustration of royalty and its attendant circumstances. Something, however, can be

made out respecting the manners and customs of the men who com- posed the armies and built

the cities of the great kings.

The Persian people were divided into ten tribes, of which three appear to have been land-

owners, three agriculturists, and four nomads or shepherds. Of the land-owning class the

principal tribe was the Pasargadae. The agricultural tribes were the Panthialaei,

Derusiaei, and the Carmanians. The nomadic classes were the Dai, the Mardi, the Dropici,

and the Sagartii. The lines between these various classes were not fixed, as in Egypt, by

a distinction of caste, but the various tribes held to a given method of life after the

manner of the clan.

The dress of the Persian common people was a cotton tunic and trousers of leather. The

head was covered with a felt cap and the waist was belted. High shoes, laced at the front

with strings, protected the feet. The richer class wore long robes with hanging sleeves,

after the style of the Medes. The caps of the opulent were raised into a tiara, their

hands were incased in gloves, and their clothing was embroidered. Nobles generally wore

chains and collars of gold-bracelets, ear-rings, and jewels.

The social life of the commons was, like that of the noble and royal ranks, disfigured by

the practice of polygamy. There was no actual restriction as to the number of wives. To

have a numerous retinue was considered honorable. Especially was it a point of distinction

to have large families of sons, and he who could display the greatest number sometimes

received a premium from the king. As if the wives were not enough, nearly all men had as a

part of their households a train of concubines, and these were generally foreigners, Greek

gills being preferred. The boys of the Persians were educated