Victory had been close, so close! Only the year before, King Cyrus the Great, King of the mighty Persians, had begun his great conquest. His enemy was none other than his own grandfather, King Astyages of Media.
King Astyages was a fearsome king. Yet he was also a fearful king. For heaven had sent him a dream. In it he saw a vine growing out of his daughter’s belly, and the vine covered his kingdom. He would be destroyed by his own grandson! So he sent his daughter away to a far off little kingdom called Persia. Any son she bore there would never become a great man, surely!
Sure enough, the princess bore a son in Persia. Astyages, still worried about the dream, sent his servant Harpagus to go to Persia and kill the baby, the grandson of the king of Media. Harpagus however could not bring himself to do the deed. So, taking the baby from its mother, he handed it to a shepherd and ordered him to kill it instead. He would return in two days to collect the body.
True to his word, Harpagus returned two days later, and the shepherd showed him the body. Satisfied, Harpagus went back to Media to his king. Little did he know that he had seen the body of the shepherd’s own son, who had died the very day Harpagus had come to Persia. So the life of little Cyrus was spared, and the shepherd and his wife raised him as their own son.
Now Cyrus grew up and became the king of Persia, as brave, wise and handsome as you please. When King Astyages heard this he was terrified. Though he punished Harpagus for failing, he still knew that he would be destroyed in the end by his grandson. And sure enough, Cyrus gathered an army and marched against his murderous grandfather.
That was one year ago, and at first the armies of Media had been beaten. But they recovered and slowly, the Persians were being driven back. Finally, at the foot of Mount Pasargadae, the Persian army was shattered. Every man ran for the safety of the mountain top, with the Medes in hot pursuit.
And who of all people did the Persians see at the top of the mountain? None other than their women, their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers. The women gave a loud and frightful cry, and lifting their skirts they bared their stomachs at their husbands, sons, brothers and fathers. “Where do you flee, you cowards?” they cried. “Do you want to run back to where you were born?” This so shocked and shamed the Persians that they turned back to face the enemy. Then they surged down the mountain and swept the Median soldiers away. So King Astyages was destroyed.
In time King Cyrus would conquer not only Media, but also Egypt, Iraq and Turkey. But the Great King owed his first great victory to women. And that is why even the Persian kings, in all their glory and splendor, pay honour to the women of Persia above all.
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