Median Empire

Astyages was the son of the “empire ender” Cyaraxes of Media. Astyages came to throne in 585 BCE after the death of Cyaraxes shortly after the battle of Halys river. The battle had taken place on May 28, 585 BCE. The battle ended abruptly due to a total solar eclipse. And this same total solar eclipse helps in identifying accurately the date of the battle.

Astyages was a “dreamer”. He dreamt that the son of his daughter Mandane would destroy his empire. Similar to the legend of Kansa (Krishna’s uncle), King Priam (Paris’s dad), and Laius (Father of Oedipus), Astyages decided that this is “not happening”. He looked around and decided that Cambyses I of the Achaemenid was “Quiet and Thoughtful Prince” to quote Herodotus and married Mandane of to him believing Cambyses I to be no threat. Later Astyages had another dream when Mandane become pregnant in which a vine tree from her womb took over the world. Astyages was a worried man. He sent his trusted general Harpagus to kill the child. Harpagus though was moral man loath to shed the royal blood. So he switched the child with a stillborn child of a shepherd, Mitradates. Remember that Krishna was also raised by a shepherd Vasudeva, Paris was raised by shepherds while Oedipus was also initially with couple of shepherds. Whats with abandoned children and shepherds!

The child was found to be alive and kicking at the age of ten playing King of the Hill. Astyages stupid magi told him that winning the game fulfills the prophecy of the child becoming king and thus is no longer a threat. Astyages lets the child live but decides to teach the treacherous Harpagus a lesson. Astyages orders the murder of only son of Harpagus and feeding him the general in a banquet. Harpagus did not react to this horrific act and bid his time.

The child became the king of the Achaemenid dynasty after his father Cambyses I, who was a vassal of the Median empire. Goaded by Harpagus, the grandson rebelled against his grandfather. After three years of struggle, Astyages’s troops mutinied during the battle of Pasargadae, probably arranged by Harpagus who led the troops. Astyages was defeated and captured, thus ending the Median empire in 550 BCE.

The child was Cyrus II also known as Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire (Achaemenid Empire) that at its peak was the largest empire in the history of the world in terms of percentage of world population under it.  About 50 million out of the then 112 million people, 44.48% of the total world population, lived and died under Cyrus.