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and was free from the all pervading and all polluting sin of idol worship. But the influence of Zoroaster did not end here. The successors of Cyrus were educated in his religion. The priests and teachers of his religion were called Magi, and exerted a powerful influence in the state. Darius Hystaspes, son-in-law and successor of Cyrus, most warmly espoused the religion of the Persian philosopher: and when Zoroaster was slain by an irruption of the Scythians, he amply avenged his death, and rebuilt the fire temples which the Scythians had destroyed, especially the one in which Zoroaster ministered, with more splendor than ever. It was this enmity to idolatry, thus derived through Zoroaster from Moses, which was the only redeeming principle that the Persian monarchs carried with them in all their extensive conquests. Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, madman and tyrant as he was, derives a sort of dignity from his zeal against idolatry. His indignation at seeing the Egyptians worship a living brute does honor at least to his Persian education, though in other respects he was a cruel and detestable tyrant. When Darius and Xerxes marched their mighty armies into Europe, the only idea which these vast expeditions were intended to carry out, that can excite the least sympathy in the Christian, is the destruction of idolatry, which they every where threatened and attempted to realize. Thus it is that
mind governs at last. The Persian kings with their vast armies, bearing war and subjugation to remotest lands, were only realizing ideas which had been matured by Zoroaster in his cave, and which he in turn had derived from Moses through the exiled Jews. The hand is the mere executive of the brain. The sword is the servant of the pen. The soldier is the machine of the thinker; and armies are assembled and battles are fought to carry out a few ideas with which the men of letters have filled the mind of a nation, and scholars and sages, prophets and impostors, good men and bad men, kings and generals, armies and revolutions, are all equally used to accomplish the purposes of that Eternal Mind who sitteth supreme over all. The ambition of Cyrus and his successors, though in a manner which they did not anticipate, was the means made use of by God, of introducing among the enslaved and stagnant multitudes of the East, the civilization, the arts and the learning, which Greece with her wonderful genius had matured.
Cyrus, whose sudden irruption into Babylon broke off Belshazzer's feast, and fulfilled so terribly the writing on the wall, had already extended the Persian empire over a greater part of Asia Minor. Belshazzer, the last king of Babylon, attempted to strengthen himself against the growing power of the Persians by forming an alliance with Croesus, king of Lydia,
so famous for his riches. This monarch, puffed up by his great wealth, and the command of an army of neary half a million, resolved to encounter the Persian power but lately become formidable. To make assurance doubly sure, he sent to enquire of the oracle at Delphi in Greece, the result of his expedition. He obtained for answer, "If Croesus pass the Halys," the boundary between Lydia and Persia, "he shall destroy a great empire." He went, and found that empire was his own. He was defeated by Cyrus, and his whole kingdom came into the hands of the conqueror five hundred and forty-eight years before Christ. This conquest brought the Persians in collision with the Greeks, and was the cause of those wars, which were waged with such bitterness for generations between the two nations, and finally resulted in the destruction of the Persian monarchy. The Greeks, though natives of Europe, had planted many colonies on the Asiatic coast. These colonies, though infinitely superior to the effeminate and luxurious Asiatics in every physical, intellectual, and moral attribute, were altogether unable to resist the overwhelming weight of an empire which reached from Ethiopia to the Caspian sea, and from the Indus to the Bosphorus. They were obliged to submit like the rest, and pay an annual tribute to their conquerors, no less to the humiliation and annoyance of the mother country than themselves. The yoke at length became
so oppressive that they resolved to throw it off. To effect this, they applied to Athens and Sparta for aid. Receiving assistance from these most considerable states of Greece, they rebelled, marched to Sardis, took it, and accidentally set the city on fire, by which it was totally consumed. The loss of this city, the richest in Asia Minor, exasperated Darius, king of Persia, in the highest degree, and kindled in his breast such a flame of resentment that he resolved upon revenge. Lest in his multifarious affairs he should forget the offenders, he appointed an officer, whose duty it was each day to repeat to him as he dined, "Sir, remember the Athenians." Resolved to punish these presumptuous Republics, which had dared to brave the whole power of the Persian empire, he collected a fleet and army sufficient as he supposed, to crush so small a country at a blow. After an ineffectual attempt to reach Greece by the circuitous route of Thrace and Macedonia, a second armament was fitted out of the flower of that army which had borne conquest on their banners from the Euphrates to the Nile, and transported by sea directly towards the little Republic of Athens, able then to send into the field from ten to fifteen thousand men. The Athenians met and vanquished them on the plains of Marathon, leaving six thousand dead on the field.
Thus ended the first attempt of Persian despotism upon the liberties of Greece. This may be said to
be the first demonstration that was ever given to the world of the benefits of a free government. A few ages of absolute political liberty had trained up a race of men such as had never yet been seen. Intelligence, combined with physical force, thorough discipline and an enthusiastic love of country, for the first time were brought to contend, hand to hand, with the pampered sons of Eastern luxury, and the spiritless automata of a despotic government. The result was what it will ever be. The Orientals fell like grass before the swords of the free.
But this defeat, so far from discouraging the conqueror of the Indies, only roused him to mightier efforts. He immediately resolved on invading Greece with a larger army than before. But in the midst of his preparations he fell before the conqueror of all. He died, and left the inheritance of his kingdom and his revenge to his son Xerxes, who was destined still further to add to the glory of Greece.
Succeeding at an early age to the mightiest monarchy which the world had ever known, he was resolved to signalize his reign by extending still further the boundaries of his hereditary dominions. Asia was not enough to satisfy his boundless ambition. Europe must likewise be subjected to his power. His father's quarrel with the Greeks furnished him with a convenient apology for such enormous injustice. Four years were spent in collecting and fitting