The Achaemenid Empire
Cambyses was probably born about 558, soon after his father's accession, and he was his legitimate successor, according to the Persian custom which assigned the crown to the eldest of the sons born in the purple. He had made a Babylonian king after the victory over Nabonidus . A later tradition, preserved by Ctesias, relates that on this occasion the territory had been divided between the two sons: Smerdis ( also called Bardiya and Tanyoxarces ) , having received as his share Bactria, the Khoramnians, the Parthians, and the Carmanians, under the suzerainty of his brother.
Cambyses, it is clear, inherited the whole empire, but intrigues gathered round Smerdis, and revolts broke out in the provinces, incited, so it was said, whether rightly or wrongly, by his partisans. Cambyses was scarcely settled upon the throne before he grew jealous of his brother, and ordered him to be privately put to death.
According to Ctesias, When Smerdis flogged a Magi priest, Sphendadates , for some misdeed, Sphendadates in revenge told Cambyses that his brother was plotting against him. In proof of this he declared that Smerdis would refuse to come if summoned. Cambyses thereupon summoned his brother, who, being engaged on another matter, put off coming. The Magian thereupon accused him more freely. According to Herodotus there are two versions of the murder. According to the first, Smerdis was killed in a hunting field near Susa; the other version says that Prexaspes ( counselor of Cambyses) drowned him in the Erythrean Sea.
His cruel orders were obeyed, and with so much secrecy that neither the mode of the death, nor even the fact, was known to more than a few. Smerdis was generally believed to be still alive . Cambyses was possessed of a violent, merciless temper, and the Persians subsequently emphasized the fact by saying that Cyrus had been a father to them, Cambyses a master.
The rebellions were repressed with a vigorous hand, and finally Smerdis was killed by royal order, and the secret of his fate was so well kept, that it was believed, even by his mother and sisters, that he was merely imprisoned in some obscure Median fortress
Pharaoh Amasis II
The ground being cleared of his rival, and affairs on the Scythian frontier reduced to order, Cambyses took up the projects against Egypt at the exact point at which his predecessor had left them. Amasis II pharaoh (570 BC-526 BC), who for ten years had been expecting an attack, had taken every precaution in his power against it .
When war at last broke out, found himself left to face the enemy alone. The struggle was inevitable, and all the inhabitants of the eastern coasts of the Mediterranean had long foreseen its coming. Without taking into consideration the danger to which the Persian empire and its Syrian provinces were exposed by the proximity of a strong and able power such as Egypt, the hardy and warlike character of Cambyses would naturally have prompted him to make an attempt to achieve what his predecessors, the warrior-kings of Nineveh and Babylon, had always failed to accomplish successfully.
Policy ruled his line of action, and was sufficient to explain it, but popular imagination sought other than the very natural causes which had brought the most ancient and most recent of the great empires of the world into opposition; romantic reasons were therefore invented to account for the great drama which was being enacted
It was said that a physician lent to Cyrus by Amasis, to treat him for an affection of the eyes, was the cause of all the evil. The unfortunate man, detained at Susa and chafing at his exile, was said to have advised Cambyses to ask for the daughter of Pharaoh in marriage, hoping either that Amasis would grant the request, and be dishonoured in the eyes of his subjects for having degraded the solar race by a union with a barbarian, or that he would boldly refuse, and thus arouse the hatred of the Persians against himself. Amasis, after a slight hesitation, substituted Nitis, a daughter of Apries, for his own child. It happened that one day in sport Cambyses addressed the princess by the name of her supposed father, whereupon she said,
The Pharaoh's Handmaidens by John Collier
"I perceive, O king, that you have no suspicion of the way in which you have been deceived by Amasis; he took me, and having dressed me up as his own daughter, sent me to you. In reality I am the daughter of Apries, who was his lord and master until the day that he revolted, and, in concert with the rest of the Egyptians, put his sovereign to death." The deceit which Cambyses thus discovered had been put upon him irritated him so greatly as to induce him to turn his arms against Egypt.
One obstacle still separated the two foes . The desert and the marshes of the Delta. The distance between the Egyptian outposts of Pelusium and the Persian fortress of Nysos on the Syrian frontier was scarcely fifty-six miles, and could be crossed by an army in less than ten days.
The difficulty of a war with Egypt lay in her inaccessibility. She was protected on all sides by seas or deserts; and, for a successful advance upon her from the direction of Asia, it was desirable both to obtain a quiet passage for a large army through the desert of El-Tij, and also to have the support of a powerful fleet in the Mediterranean. This latter was the paramount consideration. An army well supplied with camels might carry its provisions and water through the desert, and might intimidate or overpower the few Arab tribes which inhabited it; but, unless the command of the sea was gained and the navigation of the Nile closed, Memphis might successfully resist attack. Cambyses appears to have perceived with sufficient clearness the conditions on which victory depended, and to have applied himself at once to securing them. He made a treaty with the Arab Sheikh who had the chief influence over the tribes of the desert; and at the same time he set to work to procure the services of a powerful naval force.
By menaces or negotiations he prevailed upon the Phoenicians to submit themselves to his yoke, and having thus obtained a fleet superior to that of Egypt, he commenced hostilities by robbing her of a dependency which possessed considerable naval strength, in this way still further increasing the disparity between his own fleet and that of his enemy. Against the combined ships of Phoenicia, Cyprus ( under Persian control by 545 B.C. ), Ionia, and AEolis, Egypt was powerless, and her fleets seem to have quietly yielded the command of the sea.
Cambyses was thus able to give his army the support of a naval force, as it marched along the coast, from Mount Carmel probably to Pelusium . Formerly the width of this strip of desert had been less, but the Assyrians, and after them the Chaldaens, had vied with each other in laying waste the country, and the absence of any settled population now rendered the transit difficult. Cambyses had his head-quarters at Gaza, at the extreme limit of his own dominions, but he was at a loss how to face this solitary region without incurring the risk of seeing half his men buried beneath its sands, and his uncertainty was delaying his departure when a stroke of fortune relieved him from his difficulty
In the Egyptian army Greek mercenaries were the real fighting force .
Phanes of Halicarnassus, one of the Greek mercenaries in the service of Egypt, a man of shrewd judgment and an able soldier, fell out with Amasis for some unknown reason, and left him to offer his services to his rival. This was a serious loss for Egypt, since Phanes possessed considerable authority over the Greek mercenaries, and was better versed in Egyptian affairs than any other person. He was pursued and taken within sight of the Lycian coast, but he treated his captors to wine and escaped from them while they were intoxicated. He placed Cambyses in communication with the shah of the scattered tribes between Syria and the Delta. The Arab undertook to furnish the Persian king with guides, as one of his predecessors had done in years gone by for Esar-haddon, and to station relays of camels laden with water along the route that the invading army was to follow. Having taken these precautions, Cambyses entrusted the cares of government and the regulation of his household to Oropastes,one of the Persian magi, and gave the order to march forward.
On arriving at Pelusium, he learned that his adversary no longer existed. Amasis had died after a short illness, and was succeeded by his son Psammetichus III. This change of command, at the most critical moment, was almost in itself, a disaster. Amasis, with his consummate experience of men and things, his intimate knowledge of the resources of Egypt, his talents as a soldier and a general, his personal prestige, his Hellenic leanings, commanded the confidence of his own men and the respect of foreigners; but what could be expected of his unknown successor, and who could say whether he were equal to the heavy task which fate had assigned to him . The whole of the Nile valley was a prey to gloomy presentiment .
Polysenus hands down a story that Cambyses, in order to paralyze the resistance of the besieged, caused cats, dogs, ibises, and other sacred animals to march at the head of his attacking columns: the Egyptians would not venture to use their arms for fear of wounding or killing some of their gods. Painting " Cambyses at Pelusium " by Paul Marie Lenoir .
Meeting Between Cambyses II and Psammetichus III
By : Adrien Guignet
Click for larger image .
In 525 B.C. The new pharaoh hastened to meet the invader with all the men, chariots, and native bowmen at his disposal, together with his Libyan and Cyrenoan auxiliaries, and the Ionians, Carians, and Greeks of the isles and mainland. The Battle of Pelusium in May 525 B.C., and was fought on both sides with brave desperation, since defeat meant servitude for the Egyptians, and for the Persians, cut off by the desert from possible retreat, captivity or annihilation.
Phanes had been obliged to leave his children behind him, and Pharaoh included them in his suite, to serve, if needful, as hostages. The Carians and Ionians, who felt themselves disgraced by the defection of their captain, called loudly for them just before the commencement of the action. They were killed immediately in front of the Persian lines, their father being a powerless onlooker; their blood was thrown into a cask half full of wine, and the horrible mixture was drunk by the soldiers, who then furiously charged the enemy's battalions.
The issue of the struggle was for a long time doubtful, but the Egyptians were inferior in numbers; towards evening their lines gave way and the flight began. According to Ctesias, fifty thousand fell on the Egyptian side, while the victors lost no more than seven thousand. All was not, however, lost, if Psammetichus had but followed the example of Taharqa, and defended the passage of the various canals and arms of the river, disputing the ground inch by inch with the Persians, and gaining time meanwhile to collect a fresh army. The king lost his presence of mind, and without attempting to rally what remained of his regiments, he hastened to take refuge within the Memphis. Cambyses halted a few days to reduce Pelusium, and in the mean time sent a vessel of Mitylene to summon Memphis to capitulate: the infuriated populace, as soon as they got wind of the message, massacred the herald and the crew, and dragged their bleeding limbs through the streets.
The city held out for a considerable time, Psammenitus, after his defeat, threw himself into Memphis, but, being blockaded by land and prevented from receiving supplies from the sea, after a stout resistance, he surrendered.
Capture of Psammetichus
The captive monarch received the respectful treatment which Persian clemency usually accorded to fallen sovereigns. Herodotus even goes so far as to intimate that, if he had abstained from conspiracy, he would probably have been allowed to continue ruler of Egypt, exchanging, of course, his independent sovereignty for a delegated kingship held at the pleasure of the Lord of Asia.
The whole of Egypt as far as Philae became at one stroke a Persian province. Cambyses held the Persian throne from 530 B.C. as pharaoh .The Libyans did not wait to be summoned to bring their tribute; Cyrene and Barca followed their example, but their offerings were so small that the conqueror's irritation was aroused, and deeming himself mocked, he gave way to his anger, and instead of accepting them, he threw them to his soldiers with his own hand .
Map of the Persian Empire Circa 500 B.C.
The Persian empire was now by far the greatest the world had ever seen. It stretched from the Syr Darya to the Nile and from the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea. Assyria had indeed conquered Egypt, but her armies had never penetrated to eastern Persia, much less to Central Asia, nor had Lydia, at any time, come within her orbit.
This sudden collapse of a power whose exalted position had defied all attacks for centuries, and the tragic fate of the king who had received his crown merely to lose it, filled contemporary beholders with astonishment and pity. It was said that, ten days after the capitulation of Memphis, the victorious king desired out of sport to test the endurance of his prisoner.
Psammetichus beheld his daughter and the daughters of his nobles pass before him, half naked, with jars on their shoulders, and go down to the Nile to fetch water from the river like common slaves; his son and two thousand young men of the same age, in chains and with ropes round their necks, also defiled before him on their way to die as a revenge for the murder of the Mitylenians; yet he never for a moment lost his royal imperturbability.
But when one of his former companions in pleasure chanced to pass, begging for alms and clothed in rags, Psammetichus suddenly broke out into weeping, and lacerated his face in despair. Cambyses, surprised at this excessive grief in a man who up till then had exhibited such fortitude, demanded the reason of his conduct. "Son of Cyrus," he replied, "the misfortunes of my house are too unparalleled to weep over, but not the affliction of my friend. When a man, on the verge of old age, falls from luxury and abundance into extreme poverty, one may well lament his fate." When the speech was reported to Cambyses, he fully recognised the truth of it.
Croesus, who was also present, shed tears, and the Persians round him were moved with pity. Cambyses, likewise touched, commanded that the son of the Pharaoh should be saved . Cambyses treated Pharaoh himself with consideration, and it is possible that he might have replaced him on the throne, under an oath of vassalage, had he not surprised him in a conspiracy against his own life. He thereupon obliged him to poison himself by drinking bulls' blood, and he confided the government of the Nile valley to a Persian named Aryandes.
As Cyrus became a king of Babylon after conquering it, so did Cambyses become a pharaoh of Egypt in 530 B.C. According to Herodotus, Cambyses burnt the mummy of Amasis to satisfy the hatred of the natives against the Greek-loving king, and so render himself more acceptable to the Egyptians
He condescended so far as to receive instruction in the local religion, and was initiated in the worship of the goddess by the priest Uzaharrani. This was, after all, a pursuance of the policy employed by his father towards the Babylonians, and the projects which he had in view necessitated his gaining the confidence of the people at all costs.
Cambyses considers attacking Carthage
Asia having no more to offer him, two almost untried fields lay open to his ambition, Africa and Europe . The Greek world and what lay beyond it, the Carthaginian world and Ethiopia.
The necessity of making a final reckoning with Egypt had at the outset summoned him to Africa, and it was therefore in that continent that he determined to carry on his conquests. Memphis was necessarily the base of his operations, the only point from which he could direct the march of his armies in a westerly or southerly direction, and at the same time keep in touch with the rest of his empire, and he would indeed have been imprudent had he neglected anything which could make him acceptable to its inhabitants.
As soon as he felt he had gained their sympathies, he dispatched two expeditions, one to Carthage and one to Ethiopia. Cyrene had spontaneously offered him her homage; he now further secured it by sending thither with all honour Ladik the widow of Amasis, and he apparently contemplated taking advantage of the good will of the Cyrenians to approach Carthage by sea. The combined fleets of Ionia and Phonicia were without doubt numerically sufficient for this undertaking, but the Phoenicians refused to serve against their own colonies, and he did not venture to employ the Greeks alone in waters which were unfamiliar to them. Cambyses would not use force with the Phoenicians, seeing that they had willingly surrendered to the Persians, and the whole fleet drew its strength from them .
Besides this, the information which he obtained from those about him convinced him that the overland route would enable him to reach his destination more surely if more slowly; it would lead him from the banks of the Nile to the Oases of the Theban desert, from there to the Ammonians, and thence by way of the Libyans bordering on the Syrtes and the Libio-phoenicians.
Location of the Oasis of Ammon
Has the lost army of Cambyses II been found? The Persian army of 50,000 soldiers supposedly perished in a sandstorm in ancient Egypt 2500 years ago. Researchers have located a valley of bones they think may belong to the fabled army.
In 524 B.C. Cambyses dispatched an advance-guard of fifty thousand men from Thebes to occupy the Oasis of Ammon or Siwa Oasis ( close to the modern border with Libya ) and to prepare the various halting-places for the bulk of the troops. The fate of these men has never been clearly ascertained. They crossed the Oasis of El-Khargeh and proceeded to the north-west in the direction of the oracle. The natives afterwards related that when they had arrived halfway, a sudden storm of wind fell upon them, and the entire force was buried under mounds of sand during a halt. Recently a team of geologists stumbled on ancient arrow heads and human bones in the area , which may be the remains of the lost army . According to another account, Cambyses attacked the Oasis after he discovered the mummy he burnt was not Amasis, and the real mummy was in Oasis of Ammon . Later Alexander the Great visited the oasis. The Count in the movie The English Patient searches for this army .
Map of ancient Ethiopia
The expedition to Ethiopia was not any more successful. Kush, like Egypt, was divided into two regions o-Qonus, with its cities of Danguru, Napata, Asta-muras, and Alo. A number of half-savage tribes, Maditi and Bohrehsa, were settled to the right and to the left of the territory watered by the Nile, between Darfur, the mountains of Abyssinia, and the Red Sea; and the warlike disposition of the Ethiopian kings found in these tribes an inexhaustible field for obtaining easy victories and abundant spoil.
A king of Mero
The isolation of the Ethiopians had rather increased than lowered their reputation among other nations. Their transitory appearance on the battle-fields of Asia had left a deep impression on the memories of their opponents. The tenacity they had displayed during their conflict with Assyria had effaced the remembrance of their defeat. The inquiries Cambyses made concerning it were calculated to make him believe that he was about to enter on a struggle with a nation of demigods rather than of men. He was informed that they were taller, more beautiful, and more vigorous than all other mortals, that their age was prolonged to one hundred and twenty years and more, and that they possessed a marvelous fountain whose waters imparted perpetual youth to then-bodies. There existed near their capital a meadow, perpetually furnishing an inexhaustible supply of food and drink; whoever would might partake of this "Table of the Sun," and eat to his fill.
Gold was so abundant that it was used for common purposes, even for the chains of their prisoners; but, on the other hand, copper was rare and much prized.
Ethiopians bearing tribute Persepolis
According to Herodotus Camibyses dispatched some spies to explore this region, under the pretense of offering gifts to the king . When the spies arrived among these men, they gave the gifts to their king and said: "Cambyses, the king of the Persians, wishing to become your friend and ally, sent us with orders to address ourselves to you; and he offers you as gifts these things which he enjoys using himself." But the Ethiopian, perceiving that they had come as spies, spoke thus to them: "It is not because he values my friendship that the Persian King sends you with gifts, nor do you speak the truth (for you have come to spy on my realm), nor is that man just; for were he just, he would not have coveted a land other than his own, nor would he try to lead into slavery men by whom he has not been injured. Now, give him this bow, and this message: 'The King of the Ethiopians advises the King of the Persians to bring overwhelming odds to attack the long-lived Ethiopians when the Persians can draw a bow of this length as easily as I do; but until then, to thank the gods who do not incite the sons of the Ethiopians to add other land to their own. When the spies returned to Camibyses, he was angered by the report they brought back, he left Memphis at the head of an army and a fleet.
An inscription from Napata (in the Berlin museum) the Nubian king Nastasen relates that he had defeated the troops of "Kambasuten" and taken all his ships.
According to Herodotus before his army had accomplished the fifth part of their journey they had come to an end of all there was in the way of provision, and after the food was gone, they ate the beasts of burden until there was none of these left either. Now had Cambyses, when he perceived this, changed his mind and led his army back again, he would have been a wise man at last after his first fault; but as it was, he went ever forward, taking account of nothing. While his soldiers could get anything from the earth, they kept themselves alive by eating grass; but when they came to the sandy desert, some did a terrible thing, taking by lot one man out of ten and eating him. Hearing this, Cambyses feared their becoming cannibals, and so gave up his expedition against the Ethiopians and marched back to Thebes, with the loss of many of his army; from Thebes he came down to Memphis, and sent the Greeks to sail away .
Cambyses had to rest content with the acquisition of those portions of Nubia adjoining the first cataract . The same, in fact, that had been annexed to Egypt by Psammetichus I. and II. (523). The failure of this expedition to the south, following so closely on the disaster which befell that of the west, had a deplorable effect on the mind of Cambyses. He had been subject, from childhood, to attacks of epilepsy, during which he became a maniac and had no control over his actions. These reverses of fortune aggravated the disease, and increased the frequency and length of the attacks
Cambyses kills the holy Apis Bull
Cambyses kills the Apis Bull
Cyrus the Great by Jacob Abbott
Procession of the Bull Apis
Apis was a bull-deity worshipped in the Memphis region. Apis was the most important of all the sacred animals in Egypt. He was entitled "the renewal of the life" of the god Ptah: but after death he became Osorapis . The bull Apis had died shortly before the close of the Ethiopian campaign, and the Egyptians, after mourning for him during the prescribed number of weeks, were bringing his successor with rejoicings into the temple of Ptah, when the remains of the army re-entered Memphis. Cambyses, finding the city holiday-making, imagined that it was rejoicing over his misfortunes. He summoned the magistrates before him, and gave them over to the executioner without deigning to listen to their explanations. He next caused the priests to be brought to him, and when they had paraded the Apis before him, he plunged his dagger into its flank with derisive laughter: "Ah, evil people! So you make for yourselves divinities of flesh and blood which fear the sword! It is indeed a fine god that you Egyptians have here; I will have you to know, however, that you shall not rejoice overmuch at having deceived me!" The priests were beaten as impostors, and the bull languished from its wound and died in a few days .its priests buried it, and chose another in its place without the usual ceremonies, so as not to exasperate the anger of the tyrant, but the horror evoked by this double sacrilege raised passions against Cambyses which the ruin of the country had failed to excite. It was probably now that Psammenitus, who had hitherto been kindly treated by his captor, was detected in treasonable intrigues, condemned to death, and executed.
Cult of the Apis Bull
The manifestations of this antipathy irritated him to such an extent that he completely changed his policy, and set himself from that time forward to act counter to the customs and prejudices of the Egyptians. They consequently regarded his memory with a vindictive hatred. The people related that the gods had struck him with madness to avenge the murder of the Apis, and they attributed to him numberless traits of senseless cruelty, in which we can scarcely distinguish truth from fiction. It was said that, having entered the temple of Phtah, he had ridiculed the grotesque figure under which the god was represented, and had commanded the statues to be burnt. On another occasion he had ordered the ancient sepulchres to be opened, that he might see what was the appearance of the mummies. The most faithful members of his family and household, it was said, did not escape his fury. He killed his own sister Roxana, whom he had married, by a kick in the abdomen; he slew the son of Prexaspes with an arrow; he buried alive twelve influential Persians; he condemned Croesus to death, and then repented, but punished the officers who had failed to execute the sentence pronounced against the Lydian king .
Cambyses returns home
He had no longer any reason for remaining in Egypt, since he had failed in his undertakings; yet he did not quit the country, and through repeated delays his departure was retarded a whole year. Meanwhile his long sojourn in Africa, the report of his failures, and perhaps whispers of his insanity, had sown the seeds of discontent in Asia; and as Darius said in after-years, when recounting these events, "untruth had spread all over the country, not only in Persia and Media, but in other provinces." Cambyses himself felt that a longer absence would be injurious to his interests; he therefore crossed the isthmus in the spring of 522 B.C., and was making his way through Northern Syria, perhaps in the neighborhood of Hamath, when he learned that a revolution had broken out, and that its rapid progress threatened the safety of his throne and life.
The revolt of Gaumata
Tradition asserted that a herald appeared before him and proclaimed aloud, in the hearing of the whole army, that Cambyses, son of Cyrus, had ceased to reign, and summoned whoever had till that day obeyed him to acknowledge henceforth Smerdis, son of Cyrus, as their lord. Cambyses at first believed that his brother had been spared by the assassins, and now, after years of concealment, had at length declared himself; but he soon received proofs that his orders had been faithfully accomplished, and it is said that he wept at the remembrance of the fruitless crime. The usurper was Gaumata, one of the Persian Magi, whose resemblance to Smerdis was so remarkable that even those who were cognisant of it invariably mistook the one for the other, and he was brother to that Oropastes to whom Cambyses had entrusted the administration of his household before setting out for Egypt .
Both of them were aware of the fate of Smerdis; they also knew that the Persians were ignorant of it, and that every one at court, including the mother and sisters of the prince, believed that he was still alive. Gaumata headed a revolt in the little town of Pasyauvad on the 14th of Viyakhna, in the early days of March, 521 B.C., and he was hailed by the common people from the moment of his appearance. Persia, Media, and the Iranian provinces pronounced in his favour, and solemnly enthroned him three months later, on the 9th of Garmapada; Babylon next accepted him, followed by Elam and the regions of the Tigris. Though astounded at first by such a widespread defection, Cambyses soon recovered his presence of mind, and was about to march forward at the head of the troops who were still loyal to him, when he mysteriously disappeared. Whether he was the victim of a plot set on foot by those about him, is not known. The official version of the story given by Darius states that he died by his own hand, and it seems to insinuate that it was a voluntary act, but another account affirms that he succumbed to an accident.
While mounting his horse, the point of his dagger pierced his thigh in the same spot in which he had stabbed the Apis of the Egyptians. Feeling himself seriously wounded, he suddenly asked the name of the place where he was lying, and was told it was "Agbatana" . "Now, long before this, the oracle of Buto had predicted that he should end his days in Agbatana, and he, believing it to be the Agbatana (Ecbatana) in Media where were his treasures, understood that he should die there in his old age; whereas the oracle meant Agbatana
( Close to modern day Aleppo ) in Syria. When he heard the name, he perceived his error. He understood what the god intended, and cried, 'It is here, then, that Cambyses, son of Cyrus, must perish!'" He expired about three weeks after, leaving no posterity and having appointed no successor, he died in 522 B.C..
What took place in the ensuing months still remains an enigma to us. The episode of Gaumata has often been looked on as a national movement, which momentarily restored to the Medes the supremacy of which Cyrus had robbed them; but it was nothing of the sort. Gaumata was not a Mede by birth: he was a Persian, born in Persia, in the township of Pisyauvad at the foot of Mount Ara-kadrish, and the Persians recognized and supported him as much as did the Medes. It has also been thought that he had attempted to foment a religious revolution, and, as a matter of fact, he destroyed several temples in a few months.
Gaumata's usurpation to have been the prelude to a sort of religious reform and an attempt for the Magi priests, who had lost power under the Persians to regain power .
However, as time went on, and no discovery was actually made, the Gaumata bolder, and ventured to commence that reformation of religion which he and his order had so much at heart.
He destroyed the Zoroastrian temples in various places, and seems to have put down the old worship, with its hymns in praise of the Zoroastrian deities. He instituted Magian rites in lieu of the old ceremonies, and established his brother Magians as the priest-caste of the Persian nation.
The changes introduced were no doubt satisfactory to the Medes, and to many of the subject races throughout the Empire. They were even agreeable to a portion of the Persian people, who leant towards a more material worship and a more gorgeous ceremonial than had contented their ancestors. If the faithful worshippers of Ahura-Mazda saw them with dismay, they were too timid to resist, and tacitly acquiesced in the religious revolution.
These revelations of a leaning towards a creed diverse from that of the Achaemenian princes, combined with the system of seclusion adopted in the palace? system not limited to the seraglio, but extending also to the person of the monarch, who neither quitted the palace precincts himself, nor allowed any of the Persian nobles to enter them must have turned the suspicions previously existing into a general belief and conviction that the monarch seated on the throne was not Smerdis the son of Cyrus, but an impostor.
Yet still there was for a while no outbreak. It mattered nothing to the provincials who ruled them, provided that order was maintained, and that the boons granted them at the opening of the new reign were not revoked or modified. Their wishes were no doubt in favor of the prince who had remitted their burdens; and in Media a peculiar sympathy would exist towards one who had exalted Magism. Such discontent as was felt would be confined to Persia, or to Persia and a few provinces of the north-east, where the Zoroastrian faith may have maintained itself.
At last, among the chief Persians, rumors began to arise. These were sternly repressed at the outset, and a reign of terror was established, during which men remained silent through fear. But at length some of the principal nobles, convinced of the imposture, held secret council together, and discussed the measures proper to be adopted under capital of a personage felt by all to be the proper leader of the nation in the circumstances. Nothing, however, was done until the arrival at the the existing crisis. This was Darius, the son of Hystaspes, a prince of the blood royal who probably stood in the direct line of the succession .