Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The End of Cyrus
By Philemon Holland (1552–1637) and the Classical Translators
From the Famous History of Herodotus, translated by B. R. [Barnaby Rich]

CYRUS having gained the other side of Araxes, and marched forward one day’s journey, forthwith he did as Crœsus had counselled him, leaving in his tents the feeblest and most unapt soldiers of his whole number, and departed thence with the rest to the shores and banks of Araxes, being lightly harnessed and addressed for the purpose. The seely 1 remnant of the Persians appointed to stay behind in defence and munition of the tents, were assailed by the third part of the Massagets’ power: where using all means to save the tents and succour themselves, they were miserably foiled and slain. The enemy entering the camp and perceiving all places to be furnished with sumptuous provision of dainty and delicious meats, took the benefit of so good and favourable fortune, and fell freshly to the banquet, in so much that having their stomachs forced with victuals and their heads inchaunted with wine, they were taken with a profound and heavy sleep: when of a sudden the Persians returning from their ambush, came upon them unawares, and putting the most part to the sword, the rest they took and apprehended alive. Among these was the son of Queen Tomyris named Spargapises, to whom was given and committed the guiding of the army. Tomyris, advertised of her son’s misfortune together with the chance and loss of her subjects, full of stomach and displeasure, sent her legate the second time, and saluted Cyrus on this wise.
  Thou insatiable and bloody butcher, boast not thyself of this thou hast done, for if by the fruit and sap of the wine (wherewith thyself other whiles being filled to the very eyes art free from no madness, vice, and blasphemy) if herewith I say, thou hast taken and inchaunted my son: it is thy policy, not thy power; thy craft, not thy courage, that hath gotten thee the victory. Well then; once again hear me, and be ruled by my counsel: get thee hence yet, and be speedily packing, release my son whom thou hast in hold: for if in case thou refuse and stay but one moment, I swear by the sun, and the god and king of the Massagets, I will glut that greedy paunch of thine with abundance of blood, wherewith thou seemest to be insaturable and never to be satisfied. These words, with Cyrus, came in at one ear and went out at the other, lighter in value than the wind in weight.  2
  Notwithstanding, seely Spargapises, son to the stout and courageous queen Tomyris, being throughly awaked and come to himself, perceiving the case he was in, humbly besought Cyrus to loose him and take off his bonds: which done, and having his hands at liberty, he pawnched himself into the belly with a javelin, and so died. Such was the end and heavy destiny of poor Spargapises, the queen’s son. Whom his mother greatly lamenting, and seeing her counsel to take no place, gathered a mighty power and fought with king Cyrus in such sort, that of all battles and combatryes of the barbarians there was never any so bloody, fell, and cruel on both sides as this. The fight and battle itself was in this manner. First of all being distant one from another a certain space, they assaulted each other by shot of arrows, which being spent and consumed, so fierce a close was given on both parts with swords, daggers, and javelins, that the very fire sparkled out by the force and might of their blows. Thus the battle remained equal a great space, neither part yielding the breadth of a hair to his enemy, till at the length the Massagets prevailing, made a great slaughter of the Persians: wherein Cyrus himself having reigned thirty years save one, made a final end and conclusion of his days: whom the wrathful queen Tomyris seeking out among the slain and mangled bodies of the Persians, took his head and throwing it into a vessel filled with blood, in vaunting and glorious wise insulted over it in these words. Thou butcherly tyrant, my son thou tookest by craft and killedst by cruelty, wherefore with thyself I have kept touch. Now therefore take thy fill, bloody caitiff, suck there till thy belly crack. In this manner died the noble king Cyrus: of whose death and end since many and sundry things are bruited, it seemed us good to follow that, which among the rest sounded nearest to truth.  3
Note 1. seely = feeble. [back]

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