Cyrus the Younger

d. 401 BC

Cyrus the Younger, Son of Darius II and Parysatis, was born after the accession of his father in 424. When, after the victories of Alcibiades, Darius II decided to continue the war against Athens and give strong support to the Spartans, he sent in 408 the young prince into Asia Minor, as satrap of Lydia and Phrygia Major with Cappadocia, and commander of the Persian troops. He gave strenuous support to the Spartans; evidently he had already then formed the design, in which he was supported by his mother, of gaining the throne for himself after the death of his father. In the Spartan general Lysander he found a man who was willing to help him. Cyrus put all his means at the disposal of Lysander in the Peloponnesian War, and brought it about that after the battle of Arginusae, Lysander, whose term as Admiral had expired, was sent out a second time as the real commander (though under a nominal chief) of the Spartan fleet in 405.

At the same time Darius fell ill and called his son to his deathbed; Cyrus handed over all his treasures to Lysander and went to Susa. After the accession of Artaxerxes II. in 404, Tissaphernes denounced the plans of Cyrus against his brother but by the intercession of Parysatis he was pardoned and sent back to his satrapy. Cyrus then managed to gather a large army by beginning a quarrel with Tissaphernes, satrap of Caria, about the Ionian towns; he also pretended to prepare an expedition against the Pisidians, a rebellious mountainous tribe in the Taurus. He allied himself with Clearchus, a partisan of Lysander, who gathered an army of mercenaries in Thrace, and Pharsalus, who collected another army in Thessaly.

In the spring of 401 Cyrus united all his forces and advanced from Sardis, without announcing the object of his expedition. By dexterous management and large promises he overcame the scruples of the Greek troops against the length and danger of the war; a Spartan fleet of thirty-five triremes sent to Cilicia opened the passes of the Amanus into Syria and conveyed to him a Spartan detachment of 700 men under Cheirisophus. The king had only been warned at the last moment by Tissaphernes and gathered an army in all haste; Cyrus advanced into Babylonia, before he met with an enemy. Here the battle of Cunaxa was fought. Cyrus saw that the decision depended on the fate of the king; he therefore wanted Clearchus, the commander of the Greeks, to take the centre against Artaxerxes. But Clearchus, a tactician of the old school, disobeyed. The left wing of the Persians under Tissaphernes avoided a serious conflict with the Greeks; Cyrus in the centre threw himself upon Artaxerxes, but was slain in a desperate struggle. The Persian troops dared not attack the Greeks, but decoyed them into the interior, beyond the Tigris, and tried to annihilate them by treachery. But after their commanders had been taken prisoners, the Greeks forced their way to the Black Sea. By this achievement they had demonstrated the internal weakness of the Persian empire and the absolute superiority of the Greek arms.

The history of Cyrus and of the retreat of the Greeks is told by Xenophon in his Anabasis. The character of Cyrus is highly praised by the ancients, especially by Xenophon and certainly he was much superior to his weak brother in energy and as a general and statesman. If he had ascended the throne he might have regenerated the empire for a while, whereas it utterly decayed under the rule of Artaxerxes II.

—Adapted from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Key events during the life of Cyrus:

408 BC
Became Satrap of Lydia and Phrygia.
  Assisted Sparta in the final years of the Peloponnesian War.
405 BC
Arranged for Lysander to continue as Spartan commander after his term was up.
404 BC
Darius II died. Artaxerxes, brother of Cyrus, ascended to the throne.
  Began collecting mercenary armies in Asia minor.
401 BC
Marched to Susa to give battle to Artaxerxes.
401 BC
Died at the battle of Cunaxa.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Caesar in Egypt  in  Julius Caesar  by  Jacob Abbott
Man Who Looked Like Hercules in  Tales of the Romans: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Antony and Cleopatra  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Antony  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman
Antony and Cleopatra  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Antony and Cleopatra  in  Historical Tales: Roman  by  Charles Morris

Image Links

Cleopatra's Barge
 in Julius Caesar

Cleopatra Entering the Palace of Caesar.
 in Cleopatra

Cleopatra's Sister in the Triumphal Procession
 in Cleopatra

The Raising of Antony to the Upper Window of the Tomb.
 in Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra
 in The Story of the Romans

The Dead Cleopatra
 in Greatest Nations - Persia

Cleopatra Brought before Caesar
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

Caesar at Cleopatra's Court
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

The First Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

The Last Feast of Cleopatra
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

Augustus Caesar and Cleopatra
 in Back Matter

The Galley of Cleopatra
 in Historical Tales: Roman

Cleopatra sailed up the river, in a gilded vessel, with purple sails and silver oars.
 in On the Shores of the Great Sea

Fete at the Court of Cleopatra.
 in Old World Hero Stories

Short Biography
Artaxerxes Mnemon King of Persia during the retreat of the Ten Thousand.
Xenophon Historian who led Greek army out of Persia, in retreat of the Ten Thousand.
Lysander Spartan naval Commander who defeated Athens in Peloponnesian War.
Clearchus Spartan mercenary who commanded the 'Ten Thousand' Greeks at Cunaxa. Treacherously killed by Tissaphernes.
Tissaphernes Persian Satrap of Asia Minor during Peloponnesian War. Allied with Sparta.
Pharnabazus Persian satrap who fought Agesilaus in Lydia.
Parysatis Mother of Cyrus and Artaxerxes.