Meantime Astyages had a problem: Young Cyrus.  Back when Cyrus had been born, Astyages had a terrible prophetic dream he’d interpreted as meaning that Cyrus would usurp his throne and become king.  He’d been helped in this by his magi, who prided themselves on solid dream-interpretation; they’d assured him that if his grandson wasn’t killed, then one day Cyrus would be king.  And so Astyages called in the magi to chew them out for failing to predict this latest confusion.

“Hey hey hey,” said the lead magus, sweating and tugging at his collar.  “Nothing we said has at all been contradicted by current events!  Young Cyrus is, like, the boy king of his village, even!”

Astyages was, in a word, skeptical.  “So you’re saying that because he played a king game, that invalidates your prophecy?”

“Not at all!” The magus struggled to come up with a rationale.  “See, the thing is, he’s basically been the king of his village and the boys there, right?  So that’s what we predicted, and it happened.  So we spoke, so it was!  And now definitely he’s not going to become king of anybody else, I mean, then he’d be a double-king, and how often do you see that?”

“Hmm.  I think I’m going to decide that he’s not a threat to my rule, and accept him as my grandson,” announced Astyages.  “Now, advise me, my magi!”

The magi exchanged glances.  “He’s definitely not a threat to your rule,” said one.

“You could accept him as your grandson,” suggested another.  “And you can trust us, because we’re Medes like you, not like your half-Persian grandson.”

“Wise advice indeed!  Let’s make it happen!” Astyages clapped his hands together.  “Dismissed!”

So he sent the magi away without executing any of them, and called Young Cyrus back in.  “Grandson,” he said without preamble, “I have done you very slightly wrong.  Mistakes were made. Not by me of course, but still, it happened on my watch and even though I’m not responsible, I must claim responsibility.  You’re allowed to live.  In fact, I’ll tell you who your real parents are, and send you to meet them.”

“Uh…“ Young Cyrus was somewhat at a loss for words.

“Say, ‘thank you, sire,’” suggested Astyages.

“Thank you, sire?”

“Don’t mention it!” Astyages clapped his hands together. “Dismissed!”

And so Young Cyrus traveled to Persia, where he met his father Cambyses and his mother Mandane, who were legit surprised to learn that they had a son.  It was a happy reunion, of course, marred by only one unpleasant fact.

“Your adoptive mother was named Spaca, which we say as Kyno?” asked Mandane.  “No offense, but you know what that word means, right?”

Cambyses nodded.  “I can’t go around telling all my Persian friends that my long-lost son was raised by a woman named Kyno.  They’d think I was making some kind of terrible misogynistic joke.”

“Here’s what we can do, let’s tell people you were raised by wolves,” suggested Mandane.  “Much classier!”

“Ooh, that’s good.  People will also hold his table manners to a lower standard, and be impressed by his ability to speak eloquently and walk upright!”

And so Cambyses and Mandane told people that their son had been raised by wild animals, definitely not by Mede slaves with obscene words for names, no sir.  Young Cyrus grew up into Cyrus, out in Persia, where the sky was blue and the grass was green and everything was find and dandy, an idyllic life never to be spoiled.



Primary Sources: Herodotus, CLIO part 16 — 1 Comment

  1. Astyages here needs the following quote from “Richard Nixon: A Fantasy” a David Frye comedy LP.

    “I accept full responsibility… but not the blame. The difference is: those who are responsible keep their jobs. Those who are to blame lose them.”

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