Warfare > Battle of Hyrba
Battle of Hyrba
BackgroundBattle of HyrbaPart of the Campaigns of Cyrus the GreatDateWinter-Spring?, 552 BCLocationHyrba, MediaResultDecisive Persian victory.TerritorialchangesAllies of northern Media defect to Persia.BelligerentsMedian EmpirePersisCommanders and leadersHarpagus,unknown othersCyrus the Great,Later Harpagus,unknown othersStrength300 cavalry5,000 infantry, (engaged)?1,000+ cavalryCasualties and losses250 cavalryVery light[show] v t eCampaigns of Cyrus the GreatThe Battle of Hyrba was the first battle between the Persians and Medians. It was also the first battle after the Persians had revolted. These actions were led (for the most part) by Cyrus the Great, as it shifted the powers of the ancient Middle East. The success of the battle led to the creation of Persia's first empire, and began Cyrus's decade long conquest of almost all of the known world. Though the only authority with a detailed account of the battle was Nicolaus of Damascus, other well-known historians as Herodotus, Ctesias, and Strabo also mention the battle in their own accounts.The outcome of the battle was such a great blow to Medes, that Astyages decided to personally invade Persia. The hasty invasion would eventually lead to his downfall. In turn, the former enemies of the Medes tried to move against them, only to be stopped by Cyrus. Thus a period of reconciliation began, which facilitated a close relationship between the Persians and Medes, and enabled Ecbatana, capital of Media, to pass to the Persians as one of Persia's capitals in their newly formed empire.The battle occurred after the Persian Revolt, which is known to have taken place somewhere in the summer of 553 BC. Based on scant sources the battle (which was in Hyrba) is believed to have taken place at least half a year after the revolt had already begun, probably in the beginning of winter 552 BC. Astyages, the king of Medes, who is thought to have also been Cyrus's grandfather, had earlier turned down the request of Cyrus to leave his court and visit his parents again, as he had done several times earlier. Though his request to Astyages was not unusual, Cyrus had made the mistake of asking him right after the revolt that had happened, but through the pleading of the Persian servant, Oebares, Astyages let him visit his parents again. In Herodotus' version, in one of the first times Cyrus had gone to his parents, the Median general Harpagus, had secretly sent a letter stuffed in a hare to Cyrus to plot a revolt, which Cyrus passed the letter onto his father.This matches the account of Nicolaus in which he says that Cambyses I had already assembled many troops well before the battle had started, and that he later despatched a small number to Cyrus's aid. Cyrus sent a message to his father saying "... send at once 1000 cavalry and 5000 foot-soldiers to the city of Hyrba which lay on the way, and to arm the rest of the Persians as quickly as possible in such a way that it should seem to be done by command of the king. His true aims he did not communicate to him.". This also confirms the notion that the battle took place months, not days, after the revolt. Astyages decision to let Cyrus return to his parents is considered by some to have changed history by eventually enabling the Persis province to become the most powerful state in the ancient world.Cyrus was in Ecbatana when the revolt had already begun. In Nicolaus's account, when Cyrus was let go, he fled from Astyages because he knew he might eventually be executed if Astyages discovered what Cyrus's true motives were, which was to join and fight alongside his father, if necessary. This is because when Cyrus was half way to becoming an adult he learned that Astyages had already tried to execute him when he was an infant, but it did not succeed, and as time passed, Astyages came to respect Cyrus for the similarities of character, which they both shared. Meanwhile, Astyages was not sure if it was safe to let Cyrus return to his homeland. Astyages eventually did, and it helped terminate the Median kingdom. When Astyages was tricked by Harpagus twice into believing Cyrus was not a danger to him, even when the revolt and impending signs of danger had already happened, that is when Cyrus knew of how easily Astyages can be swindled. For this reason, Cyrus may have taken advantage of this to bring freedom to his own kingdom.
"When Cyrus was again with Astyages, Oebares reminded him of his advice. Cyrus followed it, sent to Persia, and when he found that all was ready, asked Astyages, under the pretext that Oebares had suggested, for permission to go to Persia. The king would not let him go. Then Cyrus betook himself to the most trustworthy of the eunuchs; when a favorable moment came, he was to obtain permission for the journey to Persia. One day, when Cyrus found the king in the best of humors and cheered with wine, he gave the eunuch a sign, and the latter said to the king: 'Cyrus asks to perform the sacrifice, which he has vowed for thee in Persia, that thou mightest continue gracious to him, and for permission to visit his sick father.' The king called for Cyrus, and with a smile, gave him permission of absence for five months; in the sixth month, he was to return. Cyrus bowed in gratitude before the king appointed Tiridates as butler to the king during his absence, and on the next he set out to Persia."
"She related this to her husband, who at once went to Astyages, told him all and added that Cyrus had obviously gone to Persia with a view of preparing for the execution of that which the dream had portended. The king was seized with great anxiety, and the Babylonian advised him to put Cyrus to death as soon as he returned."
— Nicolaus' Fragments
"Astyages applied this song to himself and Cyrus, and on the spot sent 300 horsemen to bring him back; if he would not obey they were to cut off his head and bring that. When the horsemen brought to Cyrus the commands of Astyages, he answered cunningly, perhaps on the advice of Oebares: 'Why should I not return as my lord summons me? Today we will feast; tomorrow morning we will set out.' This met with their approval. After the manner of the Persians, Cyrus caused many oxen and other animals to be slain in sacrifice, feasted the horsemen, and made them intoxicated; at the same time he sent a message to his father to send at once 1,000 cavalry and 5,000 foot soldiers to the city of Hyrba which lay on the way, and to arm the rest of the Persians as quickly as possible in such a way that it should seem to be done by command of the king. His true aims he did not communicate to him. In the night he and Oebares took horse, just as they were, hastened to Hyrba, armed the inhabitants, and drew out those whom Atradates had sent in order for battle. When the horsemen of Astyages had slept off their debauch on the following morning, and found that Cyrus had disappeared, they pursued him and went to Hyrba. Here Cyrus first displayed his bravery, for with his Persians he slew 250 of the horse of Astyages. The remainder escaped, and brought the news to Astyages."
"'Woe is me!' cried the king striking his thigh, 'That I, well knowing that we should not do good to the evil, have allowed myself to be carried away by clever speeches, and have raised up this Mardian to be such a mischief to me. Still, he shall not succeed.'"
HistoriographyThe battle was the first major blow to the Medes, as this was the first time in a long time that Media had been defeated in a battle. As Cyrus's first Persian victory in the war, it did not go well with Astyages, the king of the Medes. It also caused the northern satraps to revolt, and ally their provinces with Persia. Years after the war, the Persians and Medes still held a deep appreciation of one another, which some Medes were allowed to become part of the Persian Immortals.Since the early 1900s this battle was almost forgotten to history. As most of its account comes from fragments, only in the later modern age historians have renewed interest in this (now considered) historic event which changed the ancient world. This is because the battle started a chain reaction of events which led Persia to become the most powerful state for the next quarter of a millennia.
Warfare > Campaign of Cyrus the Great
Campaign of Cyrus the Great
BackgroundThough his father died in 551 BC, Cyrus the Great had already succeeded to the throne in 559 BC; however, Cyrus was not yet an independent ruler. Like his predecessors, Cyrus had to recognize Median overlordship. Astyages, last king of the Median Empire and Cyrus' grandfather, may have ruled over the majority of the Ancient Near East, from the Lydian frontier in the west to the Parthians and Persians in the east.According to the Nabonidus Chronicle, Astyages launched an attack against Cyrus, "king of Ansan." According to the historian Herodotus, it is known that Astyages placed Harpagus in command of the Median army to conquer Cyrus. However, Harpagus contacted Cyrus and encouraged his revolt against Media, before eventually defecting along with several of the nobility and a portion of the army. This mutiny is confirmed by the Nabonidus Chronicle. Babylonian texts[who?] suggest that the hostilities lasted for at least three years (553-550), and the final battle resulted in the capture of Ecbatana. According to the historians Herodotus and Ctesias, Cyrus spared the life of Astyages and married his daughter, Amytis. This marriage pacified several vassal including the Bactrians, Parthians, and Saka. Herodotus notes that Cyrus also subdued and incorporated Sogdia into the empire during his military campaigns of 546-539 BC.With Astyages out of power, all of his vassals (including many of Cyrus's relatives) were now under his command. His uncle Arsames, who had been the king of the city-state of Parsa under the Medes, therefore would have had to give up his throne. However, this transfer of power within the family seems to have been smooth, and it is likely that Arsames was still the nominal governor of Parsa, under Cyrus's authority—more of a Prince or a Grand Duke than a King. His son, Hystaspes, who was also Cyrus's second cousin, was then made satrap of Parthia and Phrygia. Cyrus the Great thus united the twin Achamenid kingdoms of Parsa and Anshan into Persia proper. Arsames would live to see his grandson become Darius the Great, Shahanshah of Persia, after the deaths of both of Cyrus's sons. Cyrus's conquest of Media was merely the start of his wars.The exact dates of the Lydian conquest are unknown, but it must have taken place between Cyrus's overthrow of the Median kingdom (550 BC) and his conquest of Babylon (539 BC). It was common in the past to give 547 BC as the year of the conquest due to some interpretations of the Nabonidus Chronicle, but this position is currently not much held. The Lydians first attacked the Achaemenid Empire's city of Pteria in Cappadocia. Croesus besieged and captured the city enslaving its inhabitants. Meanwhile, the Persians invited the citizens of Ionia who were part of the Lydian kingdom to revolt against their ruler. The offer was rebuffed, and thus Cyrus levied an army and marched against the Lydians, increasing his numbers while passing through nations in his way. The Battle of Pteria was effectively a stalemate, with both sides suffering heavy casualties by nightfall. Croesus retreated to Sardis the following morning.While in Sardis, Croesus sent out requests for his allies to send aid to Lydia. However, near the end of the winter, before the allies could unite, Cyrus the Great pushed the war into Lydian territory and besieged Croesus in his capital, Sardis. Shortly before the final Battle of Thymbra between the two rulers, Harpagus advised Cyrus the Great to place his dromedaries in front of his warriors; the Lydian horses, not used to the dromedaries' smell, would be very afraid. The strategy worked; the Lydian cavalry was routed. Cyrus defeated and captured Croesus. Cyrus occupied the capital at Sardis, conquering the Lydian kingdom in 546 BC. According to Herodotus, Cyrus the Great spared Croesus's life and kept him as an advisor, but this account conflicts with some translations of the contemporary Nabonidus Chronicle (the King who was himself subdued by Cyrus the Great after conquest of Babylonia), which interpret that the king of Lydia was slain.Before returning to the capital, a Lydian named Pactyas was entrusted by Cyrus the Great to send Croesus's treasury to Persia. However, soon after Cyrus's departure, Pactyas hired mercenaries and caused an uprising in Sardis, revolting against the Persian satrap of Lydia, Tabalus. With recommendations from Croesus that he should turn the minds of the Lydian people to luxury, Cyrus sent Mazares, one of his commanders, to subdue the insurrection but demanded that Pactyas be returned alive. Upon Mazares's arrival, Pactyas fled to Ionia, where he had hired more mercenaries. Mazares marched his troops into the Greek country and subdued the cities of Magnesia and Priene. The end of Pactyas is unknown, but after capture, he was probably sent to Cyrus and put to death after a succession of tortures.Mazares continued the conquest of Asia Minor but died of unknown causes during his campaign in Ionia. Cyrus sent Harpagus to complete Mazares's conquest of Asia Minor. Harpagus captured Lycia, Cilicia and Phoenicia, using the technique of building earthworks to breach the walls of besieged cities, a method unknown to the Greeks. He ended his conquest of the area in 542 BC and returned to Persia.
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