PERRIN, Jean-Charles-Nicaise
(b. 1754, Paris, d. 1831, Paris)

Cyrus and Astyages

Oil on canvas
Private collection

Cyrus was, according to the writings of Herodotus, the founder of the Persian Empire in the 6th Century BCE. Astyages, the king of Media, and grandfather of Cyrus, ordered that his infant grandchild be slain in an attempt to thwart a prophecy that his grandson would one day overthrow him. A kinsman, Harpagus, was entrusted with the murder, but unable to kill the child, instead left the baby with a local shepherd to be exposed on a mountainside. The shepherd's wife substituted her own stillborn child for the infant Cyrus and raised Cyrus as her own.

Recognized and returned to his true parents after being brought before the king, his grandfather, as a poor shepherd for insulting a nobleman's son, Astyages at the same time punished Harpagus for disobeying his order to kill the child. Harpagus as a result plotted with Cyrus to overthrow Astyages, eventually succeeding in the conquest of Media and the formation of the Persian Empire.