The Great Empires of Prophecy, from Babylon to the Fall of Rome



Death of Cambyses—Death of “Smerdis.”

CAMBYSES, the son of Cyrus, succeeded immediately to the throne of the Medo-Persian Empire, near the beginning of the year 529 B. C. There was a second son, named Smerdis; but Cambyses caused him to be secretly murdered. GEP 61.1

2. The Samaritans, who had opposed the building of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israel in Palestine, and who had hired counselors to frustrate that purpose “all the days of Cyrus king of Persia,” continued the same opposition in the reign of Cambyses; for “in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.” 1 There is no known record that any notice was taken of their accusation; and the work of restoration in Jerusalem and Judea continued, though meeting many hindrances. GEP 61.2

3. When Daniel saw in vision, about 539, the ram which the angel said represented Media and Persia, it was pushing westward, and northward, and southward. We have seen that before the capture of Babylon, Cyrus, in behalf of the united nations, had extended their power westward as far as the AEgean Sea and the river of Egypt. Now, 525 B. C., Cambyses carried their power southward over all Egypt, and as far as Ethiopia. “Vast warlike preparations preceded the expedition. The Greeks of Asia Minor, the Cyprians, who had just submitted, and the Phenicians had to furnish the fleet. A countryman of Herodotus, the mercenary captain Phanes of Halicarnassus, deserted from the Egyptians to the Persians, and made himself very useful in the conquest. It seems that only one great battle was fought, at Pelusium, the gateway of Egypt. The Egyptians, utterly beaten, fled to Memphis, which soon fell into the enemy’s hands. Thus Egypt became a province of Persia; and a pretext was soon found for executing the captured king Psammenitus. This was followed by the submission of the neighboring Libyans and the princes of the Greek cities of Cyrene and Barca.” 2 GEP 61.3

4. He contemplated carrying an expedition against Carthage; but this could not be done with any prospect of success without a fleet, and as his fleet was largely made up of the Phenicians, who refused to take any part in any attack upon Carthage, because the Carthaginians were originally their own colonists, this scheme had to be given up. He sent an army of fifty thousand to make the conquest of No Ammon; but the whole company perished in the sands of the desert which they were obliged to cross to reach their intended destination. Personally, he led a much larger army toward the southern frontier of Ethiopia; but for lack of supplies, was obliged to return without having accomplished anything that he intended. But from the Mediterranean Sea to Meroe, “Egypt became for a full generation the obsequious slave of Persia, and gave no more trouble to her subjugator than the meekest or the most contented of the provinces.”—Rawlinson. 3 Having thus reduced to subjection the whole of Egypt and Ethiopia, Cambyses started on his return to his capital. GEP 62.1

5. When Cambyses caused the murder of his brother Smerdis, it was done with so much secrecy that the great body of the people believed him to be still alive. This resulted in the rise of a certain Gomates, who claimed to be the true Smerdis. Because of the general belief of the people that Smerdis was alive, and because Gomates bore such a close resemblance to Smerdis, this false Smerdis was readily received as the true. Cambyses having been long absent in the far-away country of Egypt, and even Ethiopia, under all the circumstances it was easy for Gomates to fix himself firmly upon the throne of united Persia and Media. GEP 62.2

6. The original account of this is that “Cambyses, son of Cyrus, was king.... This Cambyses had a brother, named Smerdis (Bardiya), they had the same mother and the same father. Afterward, this Cambyses killed Smerdis. When Cambyses killed Smerdis, the people did not know that Smerdis was killed. Then Cambyses went to Egypt. The people became bad, and many falsehoods grew up in the provinces, as well as in Persia, as in Media, as in the other lands. And then a man, a Magian, named Gomates, from Pasargadae, near the mount named Arakadris, there he arose. On the 14th day of the month Viyakhna, thus he arose: To the people he told lies, and said: ‘I am Smerdis, the son of Cyrus, the brother of Cambyses.’ Then all the people revolted from Cambyses, went over to him, and the Persians, and the Medes, and the other nations. He seized the kingdom. On the 9th day of the month Garmapada he took the royalty from Cambyses.... Gomates the Magian deprived Cambyses as well of the Persians, as of the Medians, as of the other nations; he did according to his own will, and seized the royalty over them.”—Darius. 4 GEP 62.3

7. Cambyses, on his way back to Persia, had reached Syria, when he was met by one of the many heralds whom Gomates had sent “through all the land, to Egypt and elsewhere, to make proclamation to the troops that henceforth they were to obey Smerdis the son of Cyrus, and not Cambyses.” The herald, “finding Cambyses and his army there, went straight into the middle of the host, and standing forth before them all, made the proclamation.”—Herodotus. 5 GEP 63.1

8. “Then Cambyses died, killing himself” (Darius), 6 having “reigned in all seven years and five months, and left no issue behind him, male or female.”—(Herodotus. 7 This was in the end of July, B. C. 522. GEP 63.2

9. This Gomates, the false Smerdis, was a Magian, and was largely ruled by the Magian priests. He made it his chief purpose to make the Median influence, and also the Median religion, once more predominant in the united empire. This was a point which the Samaritans found to their advantage in their opposition to the restoration of the government in Jerusalem. Knowing that this false Smerdis, being opposed to the Persian influences, would be glad of whatever accusations he might receive; and it having been a decree of Cyrus the Persian which restored the Jews to their own land, and under which they had so far steadily carried on the work of restoration, in spite of all opposition; the Samaritans reckoned that now under the new order of things they should surely succeed in putting a stop to that work. GEP 63.3

10. Accordingly, “in the days of Artaxerxes [the false Smerdis] 8 wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue. Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:— GEP 64.1

“Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, and the Elamites, and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnapper brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest that are on this side the river, and at such a time.... Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time. Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations. Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings. Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonor, therefore have we sent and certified the king; that search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed. We certify the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river. GEP 64.2

11. “Then sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and unto the rest beyond the river:— GEP 64.3

“Peace, and at such a time. The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me. And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein. There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them. Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me. Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings? GEP 65.1

12. “Now when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem.” 9 GEP 65.2

13. As to his reign generally, though “he sent round to every nation under his rule, and granted them freedom from war-service and from taxes for the space of three years” (Herodotus), yet otherwise “the people feared him utterly. He killed many people who had known the former Smerdis. He killed many persons for the following reason, thinking: ‘May they not acknowledge me that I am not Smerdis, son of Cyrus?’” (Darius.) His career, however, was very short. In the eighth month of his reign, a conspiracy was formed by seven chief men, of whom the leader was Darius, the son of Hystaspes, a Persian. GEP 65.3

14. Of this transaction “Darius the king says: There was neither a man in Persia, nor a Median, nor any one of our race who would have dispossessed Gomates the Magian of the kingdom. Nobody dared to say about Gomates the Magian, anything whatever, until I came. By the grace of Ormazd, on the 10th day of the month of Bagayadis, then accompanied by a few men, I killed Gomates the Magian, and with him the men who were his principal adherents. There is a fortress, named Sikhyuvatis, in the country called Nisaea, in Media; there I killed him, I dispossessed him of the royalty, by the grace of Ormazd, I had the kingly power, Ormazd gave to me the royalty. GEP 65.4

15. “And Darius the king says: Intaphernes by name, on of Oeospares, a Persian; and Otanes by name, son of Sochres, a Persian; and Gobryas, by name, son of Mardonius, a Persian; and Hydarnes, by name, son of Megabignes, a Persian; and Megabyzus, by name, son of Dadyes, a Persian; and Ardumanes, by name, son of Ochus, a Persian; these men accompanied me, when I killed Gomates the Magian, who said: ‘I am Smerdis, son of Cyrus.’ And henceforth these men were my companions. Thou, who wilt be king in future times, protect always that sort of men.”—Darius. 10 GEP 65.5