Ten years passed.  Baby Cyrus grew up into Young Cyrus, a typically typical Persian village boy whose only claim to fame was that whenever all the kids in his village got together to play King & Spearmen & Laborers & Etc, Young Cyrus always insisted on playing the part of the King.  One day one of Young Cyrus’s little friends, the son of Artembares (just some guy, don’t worry about it) refused to obey Young Cyrus.

“I wanna be king!” he said.

Young Cyrus’s response came quickly.  “Usurper!  Guards, seize this would-be regicide and hold him down while I horsewhip him!”

And for whatever reason, the other boys played along.  The whipped boy then ran home and cried and complained to his parents about Young Cyrus.  “The slaveboy whose parents belong to King Astyages was mean to me!”

“Well, clearly the thing to do is to march down to the palace with Young Cyrus, holding him by the ear like you see people do, and complain to Astyages about how one of his slaves’ sons is a little shit!” cried Artembares, because that makes sense.

And of course that happened, just like so.  Herodotus observes that it would make no sense for people to be calling Young Cyrus by his official royal name, Cyrus, and so surely he had some lame slave name, but Herodotus doesn’t know what it was.

When Astyages found out that one of his (hundreds if not thousands of) slaves’ sons had arranged for the brutal whipping of another boy, naturally he dropped everything to form a special committee to investigate.  He summoned Young Cyrus’s alleged father, Mitradates, and chewed him out for having such an unruly boy who didn’t instinctively defer to his social betters the way a good slave should.

“But I was kiiiiing!” insisted Young Cyrus, who refused to accept that he’d done anything wrong.

Something about Young Cyrus’s sense of entitlement struck a chord with Astyages.  After getting rid of Artembares with some empty words, Astyages sits Mitradates down.  “This isn’t your boy, is he?”

Mitradates insisted he was, and held to that story right to the point where Astyages signaled to the Royal Torturer to bring in the Royal Torture Pliers.  Then he broke down sobbing and confessed everything.

“There, there,” said Astyages.  “You’re right to feel so bad, yes, you’re a bad slave.  But if I execute you for your sins, will you truly have learned anything?  No, for as a slave you’re incapable of learning anything.  I’m wasting my time talking to you.  Harpagos!”

Thus Astyages turned his attention abruptly to Harpagos, who admitted it was true: rather than kill Baby Cyrus as he’d promised, he turned the baby over to Mitradates and accepted an in-retrospect suspiciously fetal corpse.

“Hmm, I think I’ll have one of my trademark sudden changes of heart,” said Astyages.  “It’s good that my grandson is alive, because my daughter hasn’t spoken to me in ten years and I’ve been starting to feel a little guilty about it.”  He clapped his hands together.  “Celebratory disco party!  Young Cyrus and your son, Harpagos, shall be guests of honor!”

However Astyages was still scheming.  When Harpagos’s son showed up for his disco cake, Astyages smiled and led him back to the kitchen and then came out a little later with a big platter of meat and some clothes Harpagos’s son wasn’t going to be needing any longer.  Astyages served Harpagos a slice of this meat, and then just to make sure literally everyone understood what was happening, he also proffered Harpagos’s son’s severed head and hands and feet.  (CANNIBALISM COUNT: 2)

Because Harpagos was some kind of sociopath, when he saw his son’s severed head and looked down and realized he’d been eating a piece of his son, Harpagos didn’t scream or retch or anything.  Instead he sat quietly, thanked Astyages for the meal, said that it was all so delicious, and then he quietly gathered up all the uneaten portions of his son and carried them home.  Herodotus theorizes that Harpagos wanted to bury his son, or as much of him as he could, but for all Herodotus actually knows, Harpagos took a doggie bag and ate leftovers for days.


Primary Sources: Herodotus, CLIO part 15 — No Comments

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