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405px-Tomyris Plunges the Head of the Dead Cyrus Into a Vessel of Blood by Alexander Zick

Tomyris was the queen of the Massagetae, a nomadic civilization living in eastern Iran. She is credited by Greek historians Herodotus, Strabo, Polyaenus, Cassiodorus and Jordanes with ending the rule of Persian king and conquerer Cyrus the Great.

Cyrus having been successful in conquering other cities and empires (such as the mighty Babylon) wanted the territories of the Massagetae. He even went so far as to offer marriage to the queen but Tomyris would have no such alliance or offer of rule over her people. She instead suggested, "rule your own people and try to bear the sight of me ruling mine." As Cyrus would not take no for an answer, Tomyris then suggested that the two rulers should set up a meeting: either the Massagetae retreat three days' march from the river Araxes and Cyrus would cross, or Cyrus would retreat and the Massagetae would make the crossing.

The powerful but reasonable Cyrus considered this proposal and discussed it among his chief officers, who agreed to the suggestion unanimously. All except one- Croesus the Lydian who beleived that it was shameful and unmanly for the mighty Cyrus to yield to the requests of a woman. Therefore he took it upon himself to give hospitality to the Massagetae by leaving wine at the camp where they were staying as guests. The pastoral people were not used to wine and got severely intoxicated. The Persians attacked, killed and captured the Massagetae among them General Spargapises, who committed suicide- and was Tomyris' son. This was Tomyris' enraged response: "Glutton as you are for blood, you have no cause to be proud of this day's work, which has no smack of soldierly courage. Give me back my son and get out of my country with your forces intact, and be content with your triumph over a third part of the Massagetae. If you refuse, I swear by the sun our master to give you more blood than you can drink for all your gluttony."

The queen swept down upon the Persians and succeded in the battle. Cyrus was killed and when Tomyris discovered that her son was already dead, she had the body of the king brought before her. She pushed the head of the corpse into a skin filled with human blood. "Though I have conquered you,and live" she concluded, "yet you have ruined me by treacherously taking my son. See now- I fulfill my threat: you have your fill of blood."

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