Imágenes de páginas

But what was most truly great and royal in him, [c] was a thorough conviction that all his care and attention ought to tend to making his people happy; and that a king was not to be distinguished from his subjects by the splendor of riches, the pomp of equipage, or the luxury or expence of his table; but by a superiority of merit in every kind, and especially by an indefatigable application to watch over their interests, and to procure thein ease and plenty. In short, the foundation and basis in a manner of the state of princes, is not to live for themselves. To be devoted to the public good, is the very characteristic of their real greatness. They are like the fountain of light, set only in an high place, to be the more universally diffused: and it would be injurious to them, to confine them within the narrow bounds of personal interest. They would fall again into the obscurity of a private condition, if their views were less extended than their dominions. The whole claims them, because confided to them.

It was from the assemblage of all these virtues that Cyrus was enabled in so short a time to lay the foundations of an empire, which took in almost all the parts of the world; that he peaceably enjoyed the fruit of his conquests for many years ; that he was so much esteemed and beloved, not only by his natural subjects, but by all the nations he had conquered ; and that after his death he was generally lainented as the common father of all his people.

We ought not to be surprised that Cyrus was so accomplished in every respect, as we know that God himself had formed him to be the instrument and agent of his design of mercy towards his people, and to give the world in his person a perfect inodel of the manner in which princes ought to govern their people, and the real use they oight to make of sovereignty.

[c] 'Eyw mivoluar duiv toraggorta Ac mihi quidem videntur huc των αρχομένων διαφέρειν, και το σο- oinnia esse reterenda ab iis qui præλυτελές ερον δειπνείν, και πλέον ένδος sunt aliis, ut ii qui eorum in impeέχειν χρυσία, αλλά το προνοείν τε και rio erunt, sint quam beatissimi. Qidofortív w powupnépivov. Cyrop.doi. Cic. Ep. 1. d. s. ad Cuint. Fratr,

CC 4


When I say that this prince was formed by God himself, I do not mean by a sensible miracle, or that he was at once made such as we admire him in history. God gave him an happy genius and capacity, by implanting in his mind the seeds of every great quality, and in his heart a disposition to the most extraordinary virtues. He took care, that these happy natural parts should be improved by an excellent education; and thus he prepared him for the great der signs he had marked out for hiin. As he is the light of the soul, he dispersed all his doubts, suggested to him the properest expedients, made him attentive to the best counsels, enlarged his views, and rendered them more clear and distinct. [d] Thus God presided over all his enterprises, led him as it were by the hand in all his conquests, opened for him the gates of cities, made the strongest ramparts fall down be fore him, and humbled in his presence the most mighty of the earth. • To set the merit of Cyrus in a better light, we need only compare him with another king of Persia. I mean Xerxes his grandson, who, hurried on by an absurd motive of revenue, attempted to subdue Greece. We see him surrounded with whatever is beld most in esteen, and makes the greatest figure in the eyes of men; the la gest empire at that time in the world, inmense riches, forces by sea and land in an almost incredible number. But all this was but around him, not in him, and added nothing to his natural qualifications.

For through a blindness too common amongst princes and great men, born to the possession of unbounded wealth with unlimited power, and encompassed with a glory he had been at no pains to acquire,

[d] Thus saith the Lord to his gates shall not be shut. I will go anointed, to Cyrus, whose right- before thee, and make the crooked hand I have holden to subcine sa places strait. I will break in tions before him : And I will loose pieces the gates of brass, and cut the loins of kings, to open before as under the bars of iron. Isa. xlv, him the two-leaved gates, and the 1, 2,


he had accustomed himself to judge of his own talents and personal merit from the outside of his high place and state.

He despises the sage advice of his uncle Artabanus and Demaratus, to give car only to the fatterers of his vanity. He measures the success of his enterprises by the extent of his power. The servile submission of so many nations does not satisfy his ambition; and disdaining too ready and easy an obedience, he pleases himself with exercising his dominion over the elements, with cutting through mountains, and making them navigable, with chastising the sea for breaking down his bridge, and binding the floods with chains. Full of a childish vanity and a ridiculous pride, he looks upon himself as master of nature and the elements; thinks no nation dares oppose his way, and with presumptuous folly and idle assurance reckons upon the millions of men and vessels that follow at his heels. But when after the battle of Salamis he saw the sad remains and shameful ruins of his innumerable troops dispersed over all Greece, he was then convinced of the difference there was between an army and a multitude of men; [e] stratusque per totam passim Græciam Xerxes intellexit, quantùm ab exercitu turba distaret.

I cannot omit applying in this place two of Horace's verses, which seem made for the double event I have now been speaking of.

Vis consili expers mole ruit sui;
Pim temperatam


quoque provehunt In majus. " Mere brutal force by its own weight descends, "While force more moderate heaven itself be

“ fiiends." In short, can the army of Xerxes be better described than by these words, vis consili erpers, a power voidof counsel and prudence; or can the success of it be expressed better than by the following terms, mole ruit (2) Senec. I. 6. de Benef. c. 32.


suli, which shew how that enormous Colossus fell by its own weight and grandeur? Whereas, says Horace, the gods take a pleasure in augmenting a power founded in justice, and guided by reason, such as was the power of Cyrus, V'im temperatam Dii quoque provehunt in majus.

The second Reflection. One of the rules I laid down as useful to direct youth in the study of history, was principally to enquire after truth, and early to accustom themselves to know and distinguish the characters of it. This is the natural place of applying this rule. Herodotus and Xenophon, who perfectly agree in what I look upon to be the essential part and substanceof Cyrus's history, I mean his expedition against Babylon, and his other conquests, arę very different in their accounts of several other very important facts, such as the birth and death of this prince, and the establishment of the Persian empire.

Youth should not be left ignorant of these differences. Herodotus, and after him Justin, relate, that Astyages, king of the Medes, upon a frightful dream which he had, married his daughter Mandane, to a Persian of obscure birth and condition, named Cambyses. A son being born of this marriage, the king ordered Harpagus one of the principal officers, to put him to death. Harpagus gave him to one of the king's shepherds to be exposed in a forest; but the child being miraculously preserved, and brought up privately by the shepherd's wife, was at last discovered by his grandfather, who was satisfied with sending him to a remote part of Persia, and discharged his whole indignation upon the wretched Harpagus, whose son he caused to be killed and dressed, and served up to his father ai an entertainment. The young Cyrus, several years after, informed by Harpagus of his birth and station, and encouraged by his advice and remonstrances, raised an army, marched against Astyages, defeated him in battle and thereby transferred the empire of the Medes to the Persians

. The The same Herodotus makes Cyrus die in a manner very unworthy so great a conqueror. This prince according to him, having made war against the Scythians, in the first battle he counterfeited a flight, leaving behind him a large quantity of wine and provisions in the field. The Scythians did not fail to fall greedily upon them. Cyrus returned against thein, and finding them all drunk and asleep, he defeated them without difficulty, took abundance of them prisoners, and among the rest the son of queen Tomyris, who commanded an army in person. This young prince, whom Cyrus refused to send back to his mother, recovering from his drunkenness, and not bearing to sutter captivity, killed himself. Tomyris, animated with a thirst of revenge, gave a second battle to the Persians; and having drawn them in her turn into an ambuscade by a pretended flight, cut off above two hundred thousand of thein, with Cyrus their king. And then cutting off Cyrus's head, she threw it into a vessel full of blood, with this insulting speech, “ Cruel as thou

art, satiate thyself with blood, of which in thy life"time thou hast always been insatiable.” Satia te, inquit, sanguine quem sitisti cujusque insatiabilis semper fuisti.

The question is, which of these two historians, who relate the same history in so different a manner, is the best authority. Youth themselves, if properly interrogated by a skilful master, may easily give an

The account which Herodotus gives of the first years of Cyrus has more the air of a fable than an history. And for his death, what likelihood is there, that a prince so experienced in war, and still more commendable for his prudence than valour, should have run headlong into the snares laid for him by a woman? What the same historian relates of the violent passion and childislı revenge of Cyrus against a river, which had drowned one of his sacred horses, and which he caused his army to cut directly into three hundred and sixty channels, is directly opposite to the



« AnteriorContinuar »