Page 0349


the second century of our era, the next campaign of Cyrus was into Gedrosia. But of this

expedition we have no details, and the fact of the conquest has been called in question.

The country of the Gedrosians, however, was, in the times of Darius Hystaspis, a province

of the Empire, and it must therefore have been added by him- self or some of his

predecessors, most likely Cyrus. Be this as it may, the conquest was effected at some time

between the reign of the latter and that of Darius.

The period assigned to these Eastern campaigns of Cyrus is thirteen or fourteen years.

Perhaps during these long-continued wars and marches he returned at intervals to his own

capital. It is probable that the monarch spent many of his winters either at Ecbatana or

Pasargadae, and thence with the opening of spring renewed his military operations after

the prevalent manner of the times. Thus, for a long period, by-the constant occupations of

Cyrus in the East, did Nabonadius, king of Babylon, secure exemption from the punishment

which he had provoked by his alliance with Croesus in former years. It does not often

happen, however, that an Eastern king allows his wrath to cool in the case of one who has

entered a league against him, and so the vengeance of the Persian was procrastinated

rather than extinguished. When his Eastern wars were ended he was already sixty years of

age, but his ardor was not cooled, and he now found time to inflict on the Babylonians the

chastisement long due for their defection and disloyalty to old traditions of friendship.

It was in the year B. C. 539 that the Persian monarch found himself in readiness to

proceed against Babylon. It will be remembered that he was delayed one winter in Susiana,

as it has been alleged, by the drowning of the sacred horses. Here it was, at any rate,

either by design or accident, that his soldiers became expert in the use of the spade and

learned how to change the channels of great rivers. In the spring of the next year he

resumed his march into the Babylonian plain, and in the course of that memorable summer

succeeded in the complete demolition of the Empire of the Babylonians. How the great city

fell; how Nabonadius was cooped up in Borsippa; how, foreseeing the inevitable, he

surrendered himself and his people to the conqueror, has already been fully narrated in

the preceding pages. With the capture of Babylon there was an immediate recognition of the

new order of things throughout Mesopotamia. Susiana had been already subdued. Syria and

Pales- tine passed as a matter of course to the conqueror. His Empire was suddenly

enlarged by territories whose aggregate; area was not less than a quarter of a million of

square miles. From the Indus to the Mediterranean there was no longer left a single state

able to throw serious resistance or even an interesting impediment in the way of the Great

King. Up to this time in the history of the world no other had ruled such vast dominions.

It was the sudden ascendancy of a new family of mankind. For fifteen hundred years the

Semites and Cushites had dominated the best parts of Western Asia and Africa. It was now

the turn of the Aryans to introduce their world-wide supremacy by the establishment of

their first great Empire. This collapse of the political power of the Semitic race

involved a great change in the opinions and usages of mankind. It was a crisis which

marked the downfall of an old system of religious faith which, variously inflected, had

prevailed among the Mesopotamian nations and in various countries whose people were in

race-affinity with the Chaldaeans and Assyrians. For; all this there was substituted a new

set of doctrines and beliefs, in spirituality greatly superior to the old, in philosophy

much more accordant with right reason. The ancient religious beliefs of Babylon and

Nineveh were impaled on the sword of Cyrus the Great and held up for a spectacle; and the

gods of the Babylonian plain did a sudden and everlasting obeisance to the spirit of

Zoroaster. Inside the borders of the Empire estab-

1 For an account of the capture of Babylon and the establishment of Persian supremacy in

Mesopotamia, see Book Fifth, p. 300.