Warfare > Campaign of Cyrus the Great

Campaign of Cyrus the Great

Background

Though 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.[citation needed] 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.[51] Herodotus notes that Cyrus also subdued and incorporated Sogdia into the empire during his military campaigns of 546-539 BC.[52][53]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.[54] 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.[55] Cyrus's conquest of Media was merely the start of his wars.[56]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.[57] 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.[58]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.[58] 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.[59]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.[60]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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