Sack of Ilion to Seven Sages Seven Wonders of the World to Spartan Cipher Rod Sparti to Syrinx 2

Smerdis (2)false-Smerdis

The usurper of the throne of the Persian Empire.

When the second king of the Persian Empire, Kambyses (Cambyses), murdered his brother, Smerdis, the Mede that Kambyses had left in charge of his household devised an ingenious plan whereby the Medes could reclaim the empire that the Persians had stolen from them one generation earlier.

A Mede named Patizeithes had a brother named Smerdis who not only bore the same name as Kambyses’ brother but was also physically similar to him, with one exception: the Median Smerdis had no ears; Kambyses had inflicted a punishment on the Mede that required that his ears be lopped off; the two Medes were able to perpetuate the charade by keeping the false-Smerdis hidden in the palace and never allowing high ranking Persians or his wives to see him.

In order to provoke Kambyses and establish his power, Patizeithes sent heralds throughout the empire proclaiming that Smerdis was now king of the Persians; Kambyses heard the news as he was traveling through Syria on his way back to his capitol of Susa; he had committed many atrocious acts as king and he knew that the Persian aristocracy, the army and the common people would support a revolt that would remove him from power; he also knew that his brother was dead and therefore could not be on the throne; after considering the facts, he correctly perceived the truth of the matter, i.e. the Smerdis on the throne was the brother of his steward, Patizeithes, and that the Medes were now in control of his empire.

As Kambyses was preparing to take his army to Susa, he accidentally wounded himself with his sword and, within days, the wound became infected and his death was eminent; he called the highest ranking Persians of his army to his side and told them the truth; he told them how he had sent Prexaspes to secretly murder his brother, Smerdis, and that a Mede, a false-Smerdis, had assumed the throne; he urged them to use any means necessary to depose the false-Smerdis and place a Persian on the throne.

The Persians who heard the story of the false-Smerdis simply did not believe it; Kambyses had been such a cruel and manipulative man that they assumed this was his final death-bed act of spite and disruption; after Kambyses died, Prexaspes, to protect himself from reprisals, denied any knowledge of the murder of Smerdis; the army and almost all of the Persian people believed that the false-Smerdis was the rightful heir to the empire and they did not question his authority or identity.

In the first few months of his reign, false-Smerdis proclaimed that his subjects would be exempt from tribute (taxes) and that mandatory military service would be curtailed for three years; he established himself as a magnanimous sovereign quite opposite from the oppressive domination that Kambyses had instituted; however, a few Persians devised a way to verify his true identity; they persuaded one of his many wives to secretly feel his head and to see if he had ears; the true Smerdis had ears and the false-Smerdis did not; while false-Smerdis was asleep, she felt his head and found that he had no ears; she told her father of this revelation and he and six others began plotting to kill the false-Smerdis and reclaim the throne for a Persian ruler.

False-Smerdis and his brother, Patizeithes, devised their own way of securing the throne and removing any opposition to their false claim to the throne; they called upon the murderer of the true-Smerdis, Prexaspes, to publicly proclaim that the false-Smerdis was in fact the true-Smerdis; they offered him riches and position if he would commit this one final act of betrayal of his nation and his people; Prexaspes agreed to the lie but, as he was addressing the Persian citizens from the palace balcony, he had a change of heart and told the truth; he admitted that he had killed the true-Smerdis and that false-Smerdis and his brother were trying to reclaim the throne for the Medes; at that point, Prexaspes threw himself from the balcony and died honorably.

Seizing the moment, the Persians who were plotting to assassinate false-Smerdis and Patizeithes burst into the palace and fulfilled their mission; they killed false-Smerdis and Patizeithes, cut off their heads and ran through the streets with their trophies proclaiming their successful revolution; the other Persians took up the cause and began slaughtering every Mede they encountered; the seven perpetrators of the coup chose one of their members, Darius, to be the next king of the Persian Empire; the year was 521 BCE; false-Smerdis ruled for seven months.

How to Cite this Page

Cut and paste the following text for use in a paper or electronic document report.

Stewart, Michael. "People, Places & Things: Smerdis (2)", Greek Mythology: From the Iliad to the Fall of the Last Tyrant.

Cut and paste the following html for use in a web report.

Stewart, Michael. &quot;People, Places &amp; Things: Smerdis (2)&quot;, <i>Greek Mythology: From the Iliad to the Fall of the Last Tyrant</i>.

Cut and paste the following html for use in a web report. This format will link back to this page, which may be useful but may not be required.

Stewart, Michael. &quot;People, Places &amp; Things: Smerdis (2)&quot;, <i>Greek Mythology: From the Iliad to the Fall of the Last Tyrant</i>. <a href=""></a>

Sack of Ilion to Seven Sages Seven Wonders of the World to Spartan Cipher Rod Sparti to Syrinx 2


Home • Essays • People, Places & Things • The Immortals
Greek Myths Bookshop • Fun Fact Quiz • Search/Browse • Links • About