Persia 16: Cyrus the Great and Pericles

- According to the writings of Persian court physician Ctesias, the Medean King Astyges gave his only daughter Amytis to Cyrus the Great. She had previously been the wife of one Spitamas the Mede, but Cyrus took Amytis from Spitamas and had Spitamas executed for insubordination. The ancient historian Berossus states that Astyges gave his daughter Amytis to Nebuchadnezzar. In ‘From Cyrus to Alexander’ (p 24), Pierre Bryant states that these are “assertions that are virtually incomprehensible in view of both chronology and history”. Although there is some confusion in the sources, it has already been shown that the current view of both chronology and history is badly mistaken! Nebuchadrezzar (a.k.a. Spitamas) was in fact an older contemporary of Cyrus the Great.

- Herodotus (3.1) relates a competing (Egyptian) tradition that Cyrus took to wife Nitocris (“Nitetis”), the “tall and beautiful” daughter of Apries, who had first been passed off on Cambyses as a daughter of Amasis.

- There were actually two God’s Wives of Amun called Nitocris during this period. The first Nitocris was in fact the daughter of Taharqa (Persian Astyges), as spelled out on the Nitocris adoption stela. Nitocris in turn adopted Ankhnesneferibre (daughter of Psamtik II/Tanuatamon) as her successor. A second Nitocris (the daughter of Amasis or Apries) was chosen by Ankhnesnerferibre to be the next God’s Wife of Amun, however the office was terminated by Cambyses, the short-lived predecessor of Cyrus the Great. (See Joyce Tyldesley, Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt, p186)

- The original Nitocris was a Queen/Ruler at the end of the Egyptian Old Kingdom. Manetho described her as “the most noble and lovely woman of her time …” (Ibid, p57). Nitocris is a Greek rendition of the Egyptian Neit-aquerti, variously spelled Neith-aqerti and Neith-iqeret.

- According to Herodotus, there were also two leading ladies during the early Persian Era named Agariste (“very best”) at this time. The first was made the object of a competition staged by her father Cleisthenes. In one of the more comical episodes of Greek legend, the head man Hippocleides won the hand of Agariste in marriage but then lost it when he became a “dancing fool” at the banquet. Agariste was given instead to Megacles (“Mega-Glory”), who has already been associated with the megalomaniac Nebuchadrezzar.

- Agariste had two sons by Megacles. The eldest was Cleisthenes (“father of democracy” at Athens). The younger was called Hippocrates (but not the “father of medicine” that came a couple of generations later).

- Prior to his death, Spitamas had two prominent sons by Amytis daughter of Astyges, who are named as Spitaces and Megabernes. Both had been made Persian satraps by Cambyses.

- Nebuchadrezzar also had two famous sons/son-in-laws, Evil-Merodach (Awil/Amel-Marduk) and Nergal-Sharezer (Nergilissar/Nergal-sar-user).
See, Chart 26b:

- Cleisthenes (“strong glory”) is by association a Greek adaptation of Ner-gilissar (user = strong). Hippocrates (“horse power”) would then be a crude transliteration of Evil-Merodach, who is thought to be an actual son of Nebuchadrezzar. Hippocrates, we are told, had a daughter named Agariste who married Xanthippus and became the mother of Pericles, builder of the Parthenon.

- It was actually Cambyses that killed Bardiya/Nebuchadrezzar for insubordination. However, Cyrus, as successor of Cambyses, was evidently also credited in some sources with the deed. (Note: Spitamas encodes the word Thomas/Twin. The main typecasting of Nebuchadrezzar/Si-Amun was as a “second” son/king, that is, as a “Simeon”.)

- Nebuchadrezzar also had two daughters, Kassaya/Kashaya and Ba’u-asitu. Kassaya (similar in form to the earlier Cassadane), is perhaps one and the same as Nitocris II. If so, then she was actually the wife and probably not also the literal daughter of Hippocrates/Evil-Merodach.

- The second Agariste therefore corresponds to the second Nitocris, who the Egyptians (according to Herodotus) claimed had married Cyrus the Great.

- It also follows that Cyrus the Great, in addition to his many other regional names/epithets/titles, was at Athens being referred to as Xanthippus (“blond equestrian”). There was indeed a Xanthippus son of Ariphron that played a critical role both at the time of Marathon and Salamis. Ari-phron is an obvious variant of Arta-phrenes, the name of Cyrus the Great at Sardis. Ari means “high/lofty” in Greek, but “lion” in Hebrew. According to Plutarch, “His mother, being near her time, fancied in a dream that she was brought to bed of a lion, and a few days after was delivered of Pericles ...”

- What we have here then are two magnates named Xanthippus. The elder Xanthippus was also called Ari-phron and corresponds to Cyrus the Great/Arta-phrenes. The younger Xanthippus, like the younger Artaphrenes comes to the forefront around the time of Marathon. At the battle of Marathon, Miltiades of Athens double-crossed the younger Artaphrenes and the Persians. Shortly thereafter Miltiades was banished from Athens by Xanthippus. After a second Persian “defeat” at Salamis, this same Xanthippus moved against Themistocles, forced him into exile, and then personally took his place as commander of the Athenian navy.

- Prior to the ascendancy of Pericles at Athens, Xanthippus disappears from the record. It could be that Xanthippus died or simply passed the mantle of leadership at Athens to his son Pericles sometime after the Battle of Salamis. However, an extra generation is not actually required (now that is clear that the combined reign of Xerxes and Artaxerxes was 41 years and not 62 years). It is more likely that Pericles was in fact the second Xanthippus, that is, he was “Xanthippus (II) son of Xanthippus (I)” and “Artaphrenes/Ariphron (II) son of Artaphrenes/Ariphron (I)”.

- Xanthippus was banished by the Athenians on at least one occasion on suspicions (justifiable) of being a Persian sympathizer. A name change may have eventually been considered advisable, or the name Pericles was used simply to help differentiate him from his father.

Useful Links

The Marriage of Agariste

Etymology of the name Xanthippus

Xanthippus at War

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