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Harpagus was a traitor to his family and a disaster for the empire of the Medes; he was in the service of the Median king, Astyages, and betrayed the entire Median race to the Persians.

While Astyages was the king of the Medes (585-529 BCE) he had two dreams that indicated that his daughter, Mandane, would have a child that would bring an end to the Median rule of western-central Asia; Astyages refused to allow his daughter to marry a Mede and forced her to marry a lower caste Persian named Kambyses (Cambyses) so that any children they might have would not be acceptable as heirs to the Median throne.

When Mandane gave birth to a male child, Astyages instructed his trusted kinsman, Harpagus, to take the new-born boy from Mandane and kill it; Harpagus had no qualms about killing the baby but he was still hesitant to do so because Astyages had no male heir to take the throne when he died and that meant that Mandane would very likely become queen; Harpagus feared that if she found out that he had killed her child she would undoubtedly punish him cruelly.

To distance himself from the guilt of such a crime, Harpagus gave the baby to a herdsman named, Mitradates, and instructed him to leave the child in the wilderness to die; when Mitradates took the child home to his wife, Kyno (Cyno), she told him that their own child had been born dead and she suggested that they keep Mandane’s baby as their own and present the dead baby to Harpagus as proof that the evil deed had been accomplished; Harpagus was deceived and reported to Astyages that his instructions had been carried out and that Mandane’s baby was indeed dead.

Mitradates and Kyno raised the child as their own and all went well until the young boy had a dispute with his playmates; a group of boys were playing a game and Mandane’s son was chosen to play the role of the king; when one of the boys disobeyed a “royal” command, the “king” ordered that he be beaten; the boy who had been punished took offense at such base treatment because his family was of noble birth and a mere herdsman’s son had ordered him beaten; the boy’s father took the insulting matter to king Astyages for justice.

Astyages called the herdsman, Mitradates, and his “son” to stand trial but when Astyages saw the family resemblance of the boy to his daughter and to himself he realized that Mandane’s son was still alive; Astyages demanded the truth from the herdsman and he soon understood the entire sequence of events.

Next he called Harpagus before him and when Harpagus saw the herdsman and the young boy he realized that he had been duped and begged for the king’s mercy; Astyages pretended to be satisfied that Harpagus was innocent of any disloyalty and told him that the boy would no longer live with the herdsman and his wife but be reunited with his true mother and father, Mandane and Kambyses; Astyages also asked Harpagus to send his own son to the palace to be the companion of Mandane’s son and also invited Harpagus to attend a celebratory dinner in honor of the boy; without hesitation, Astyages had Harpagus’ son killed; he kept the head, hands and feet but cooked the rest of the body; when Harpagus came to the palace, Astyages tricked him into eating the flesh of his son and then gave him the head, hands and feet as a reminder of what happens when the king’s orders were disobeyed; Harpagus retained his composure but he also retained a long and bitter hatred for Astyages.

Astyages was still not sure if the boy was a threat to his throne so he consulted his seers, the Magi; they assured him that the boy was harmless but just to be safe, Astyages placed spies around the child and sent him to live amongst the Persians with his natural parents Mandane and Kambyses; the boy was named Kyrus (Cyrus) and as he grew to manhood he was the best and brightest of his peers; Harpagus waited through the long years and courted Kyrus with gifts and praise; finally, when he deemed the time was right, he sent a secret message to Kyrus stitched inside a dead rabbit; he urged Kyrus to lead the Persians in a revolt to take back the land the Medes had stolen from them only four generations hence.

Kyrus was intrigued by the idea and thought long and hard as to the most effective way to incite a revolution against the Medes; he called an assembly of the Persians and cleverly persuaded them to join him in a revolt against Astyages; Harpagus had spent many years sowing the seeds of discontent throughout Astyages’ empire and when the time came to fight the Persians, Astyages was unable to muster an army to defend his throne.

After Astyages was defeated and taken prisoner, Harpagus mocked and ridiculed him; Harpagus bragged that he had helped Kyrus ferment the revolution and Astyages replied that Harpagus was the most stupid and the most unjust man alive; stupid because, as a kinsman of Astyages, Harpagus would have inherited the throne of the Medes after Astyages died and unjust because he had allowed a Persian instead of a Mede to become king; the masters were now slaves and the slaves were now masters.

Kyrus repaid Harpagus for his assistance by making him a general in the army and, as such, assisted in the Persian conquest of Ionia and southern Asia.

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H to Helike Helikon to Hexa Hieroglyphics to Holy Twain Homados to Hystaspes 2


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