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the members of his family and court, the officers of his army, and the most honourable of his subjects, created universal disgust, insomuch that a conspiracy was formed against him during his absence in Egypt, and the throne seized upon by a person, who supported his pretensions by bearing the name and supposed identity of his brother Smerdis.* On intelligence of this disaffection at home, Cambyses instantly resolved on returning to Susa, but on his way he was wounded so severely by his sword falling out of the scabbard, that he died, leaving Smerdis in undisputed possession of the kingdom. From a prince of the capricious and wayward character of Cambyses, little favour could be expected towards the Jews. At the beginning of his reign active attempts were made by the Samaritans to prejudice him against the cause of the restored captives ; and as no decisive measure is recorded to have followed their remonstrances, it is probable that a fit of caprice, or perhaps a feeling of contempt, alone prevented him from the wished-for interference. The opposition of those active enemies of the Jews was renewed with greater vigour on the accession of Smerdis, styled Artaxerxes,+ who being naturally solicitous in the circumstances under which he ascended the throne to gratify all influential classes of his subjects, lent a favourable ear to the calumnies of the Samaritans, who described the Jews as engaged in projects of a treasonable nature, and in consequence a peremptory edict was issued, commanding them instantly to stop further proceedings at Jerusalem. After his short reigni Darius was elected king 521 B. C., a prince of
* He was one of the Median Magi, and described under various names.-Editor.
Ezra iv. 7. • He was assassinated by seven Persian noblemen, who had discovered his imposture, and out of their number a successor was chosen ; agreement having been made, that the conspirator whose horse first neighed should be declared king. The ingenious artifice by which the groom of Darius secured the honour to his master is well known.-Editor.
an active, enterprising, but enlightened and honourable character, who raised the empire of Persia to its highest pitch of glory, although he at the same time sustained severe checks to his career of conquest, especially in his invasion of Greece, where his army of 100,000 men was defeated by 10,000 under Miltiades, on the celebrated field of Marathon. The domestic alliances he formed were specially overruled by Divine Providence to advance the prospects of the Jews. Having married two of Cyrus' daughters, he was, from filial ties, no less than from the respect he otherwise cherished for the memory of his illustrious predecessor, strongly disposed to tread in his footsteps, and an opportunity occurred at an early period of his reign for enlisting these feelings in the cause of the Jews. For when, on the death of Smerdis, Zerubbabel the governor, and Joshua the high priest, with their confederates, encouraged by the prophecies of Zechariah and Haggai, vigorously renewed the works at Jerusalem, and were challenged for their conduct by Tatnai, the Persian satrap, they appealed to the edict of Cyrus, and on that viceroy referring to the king for instructions, Darius ordered search to be made in the archives of the kingdom for the decree of his father-in-law, and on the original copy of that document being found, he forwarded an extract for the satisfaction of his deputy, accompanied by a message to afford every facility for raising Jerusalem from her ashes, and rebuilding the temple on a scale of greater magnificence than before.* To this excellent prince succeeded his son Xerxes, 464 B. C., a prince of whom imbecility of mind, and extreme profligacy of manners, were the leading characteristics. With the projects of his insane ambition and vanity every school-boy is familiarly acquainted ; and perhaps in the whole compass of history there is not a more signal monument of the vanity of human pride and glory, than in the pompous preparations he
* Ezra v. and vi.
made for the invasion of Greece,- in the hosts, countless as the sand upon the sea shore, of whom he called himself the master,—and the sudden and humiliating disasters he met with at Platæa and Salamis, from which in terror he recrossed the Hellespont alone in a fishing boat, Xerxes returned to Susa to brood over his defeat, and shutting himself in his palace, gave himself up to sensuality and voluptuousness. It is to this period of Persian history, which followed
upon turn from Greece, that the events belong which were so important to the Jews, and are so circumstantially related in the book of Esther. *
[On the death of this king, who was murdered by Artabanes, a Persian noble, he was succeeded by his son Artaxerxes Longimanus, who, whatever was the character of his government in other respects, pursued toward the Jews a policy equally favourable with that of his father and grandfather. Much still remained to be done in order to accomplish the object which the Jewish patriots had at heart. The protracted hostilities which the Persian monarchs had so long carried on, had so drained the resources of their subjects; and Judea particularly, owing to its vicinity to the seat of
* Rosenmuller, Bib. Cab. vol. i. p. 228. The Ahasuerus of Scripture cannot be Darius Hystaspes; nor do we trace the character of the mild and humane Artaxerxes Longimanus in the capricious despot who repudiates his wife, because she will not expose herself to the public gaze in a drunken festival; raises a favourite vizier to the highest honours one day, and hangs him the next; commands the massacre of a whole people, and then allows them, in self-defence, to commit a horrible carnage among his other subjects: yet all this weak and headstrong violence agrees exactly with the character of that Xerxes who commanded the sea to be scourged, because it brought down his bridge over the Hellespont; beheaded the engineers, because their work was swept away by a storm ; wantonly, and before the eyes of the father, put to death the sons of his oldest friend Pythias, who had contributed most splendidly to his expedition ; shamefully misused the body of the brave Leonidas; and after his defeat, like another Sardanapalus, gave himself up to such voluptuousness, as to issue an edict, offering a reward to the inventor of a new pleasure.-Rosenmuller, Bib. Cab. vol. i. p. 333. -Editor.
war, had been called upon to bear so heavy a share of the burden, both in the shape of pecuniary supplies and quarters for the soldiers, that the measures contemplated for the full restoration of the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of the Jews, were still very far from being accomplished. The completion of the temple, so far from satisfying the wishes of that people, tended only to sharpen the edge of their pious patriotism, and to make them long more ardently, the nearer they approached the consummation of their prayers, to feast their eyes and refresh their hearts with the smoke of the daily oblations. As yet, however, the altars were empty, the courts untrodden, the choristers silent; every thing was in an imperfect and unsettled state, except the splendid fabric of the temple, when, in the seventh year of this monarch's reign, Ezra, a man eminently qualified for the task, was invested with ample powersto set magistrates and judges,' to provide for the due administration of the laws, and to punish offenders, according to the extent of their criminality, with death, banishment, confiscation of goods, or imprisonment. Under his auspices, too, a collection was made among
all the Jewish residents in Babylon, for the commencement of the temple service; and while the king and his nobles contributed liberally out of their own privy purse, instructions were issued to all the treasurers beyond the river Euphrates, to furnish a certain amount of supplies in silver, wheat, oil, wine, and all the salt that might be requisite for the sacred offices. Notwithstanding all this liberality, however, and the additional encouragement held out to persons of the sacred profession to repair to Jerusalem, only two families of Levites could be prevailed upon to join the caravan of emigrants to the land of their fathers ; so that, in spite of the indefatigable efforts of Ezra, Jerusalem continued long in a forsaken and ruinous state, until Nehemiah, who was promoted to the honourable situation of cup-bearer to Artaxerxes, and
who had long sighed with pious regret over the low condition of the city and sepulchre of his fathers, used his influence with the king to get the necessary measures put in operation for reviving their long-faded glory. His appeal was successful. Nehemiah himself was appointed commissioner, along with Ezra ; and to him belongs the chief merit of calling again into existence, after a dreary interregnum, the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of the Jews.
[After this period, the civil history of Persia appears scarcely if at all mixed up with the affairs of the Jews, except on one occasion, when, in revenge for the murder of the high priest, to whom the Persian commander had shown favour, and whom he had promoted over the head of his elder brother, a fine of fifty drachms was exacted from every animal offered in sacrifice during the seven years of his provincial residence. But that was the deed of an inferior officer, not of the government; and thenceforward the Jews seem to have enjoyed the peaceful occupation of their own country, until the Persian empire fell before the arms of Alexander.
[A country so called in ancient times, of considerable extent in territory, and once important in political influence, was situated on the south and west of the Caspian, being bounded by the Araxes on the north, by Persia on the south, by Parthia and Hyrcania on the east, and by Assyria on the west. It is comprehended in the modern provinces of Irak-adjemi, or Great Media, Masanderan, Ghilan, Azerbijan, and Shirwan.*
[Physical geography.--It is a country of a very diversified character. In some places the soil is rich, well watered, and fertile ; in others, the face of nature pre
* Rosenmuller, Cab. of Bib. Geog.