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Claimants to Royalty by John Henry Ingram

The story of the pseudo Smerdis


enough has been said to prove the richness of the ground now broken, and in leaving this book in the reader's hands, it may be remarked that it is the result of several years' research amid "quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore;" amid, in some instances, old tomes of considerable rarity. A small portion of this work it should, moreover, be added, was published in the pages of a magazine about ten years ago, but that portion has been thoroughly revised for the present publication.




B.C. 520.

The history of no country is more replete with strange incidents and tragic events than is the history of Persia, and probably none of those romantic episodes are more curious than is that of the pseudo Smerdis.

Herodotus is our chief authority for the few circumstances recounted of this impostor's life and deeds, and those few circumstances, like so many other wonderful things told of by the "Father of History," must be taken _cum grano salis_. It is very difficult to distinguish the facts of so remote a period of the world's history as was the epoch of Smerdis from the fable, and the safer plan is to accept all such records, not strongly

corroborated by a conformity of contemporary opinion, as pure fiction, or as merely symbolic. The migrations and conquests of prehistoric peoples, as displayed by their philological and ethnological remains, are far more reliable evidence than are fables of the partial, or purposely misleading so-called "historians" of antiquity, whose writings generally are little better than collections of allegorical folk-lore.

The story of the pseudo Smerdis, with these qualifying reservations, may be narrated thus:--Cyrus, the founder of the Persian empire, left his extensive possessions to his eldest son, Cambyses. This monarch, whom it has been sought to identify with the Ahasuerus of Scripture, commenced his reign with a great display of energy and warlike spirit, but would appear to have incensed the priesthoods of the different countries under his sway by manifesting an utter contempt for their rites, and by deriding their ceremonies.

Urged by an insatiable ambition, he made war upon Egypt, added it to his already overgrown empire, and then, with his vast hordes of soldiery, overran the greater portion of North Africa. Not, however, possessing the ability or means of swaying such extended domains, he found himself, after his armies had suffered most frightful loss of life, compelled to retreat from Ethiopia and to return to Egypt. Arriving in this latter country about the period of the festivals held in honour of Apis, he is stated to have slain the sacred bull, under which form the god was symbolically worshipped, and in consequence of the sacrilegious deed, was punished with insanity. Previous to this catastrophe, in a fit of jealousy, he had sent his only brother Smerdis back to Persia; and now his suspicions as to the good faith of his nearest relative and heir were intensified by a dream he had, in which he imagined that a courier had arrived from Persia to inform him that Smerdis had usurped the Persian throne.

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