Cyrus to Death of
Alexander the Great
After death of King Cyrus the Jews
are hindered by the Cutheans
in rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem
1. WHEN the foundations of the temple were laying, and when the Jews were very zealous about building it, the neighboring nations, and especially the Cutheans, whom Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, had brought out of Persia and Media, and had planted in Samaria, when he carried the people of Israel captives, besought the governors, and those that had the care of such affairs, that they would interrupt the Jews, both in the rebuilding of their city, and in the building of their temple. Now as these men were corrupted by them with money, they sold the Cutheans their interest for rendering this building a slow and a careless work, for Cyrus, who was busy about other wars, knew nothing of all this; and it so happened, that when he had led his army against the Massagetae, he ended his life. (4) But when Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, had taken the kingdom, the governors in Syria, and Phoenicia, and in the countries of Amlnon, and Moab, and Samaria, wrote an epistle to Calnbyses; whose contents were as follow:
"To our lord Cambyses. We thy servants, Rathumus the historiographer, and Semellius the scribe, and the rest that are thy judges in Syria and Phoenicia, send greeting. It is fit, O king, that thou shouldst know that those Jews which were carried to Babylon are come into our country, and are building that rebellious and wicked city, and its market-places, and setting up its walls, and raising up the temple; know therefore, that when these things are finished, they will not be willing to pay tribute, nor will they submit to thy commands, but will resist kings, and will choose rather to rule over others than be ruled over themselves. We therefore thought it proper to write to thee, O king, while the works about the temple are going on so fast, and not to overlook this matter, that thou mayst search into the books of thy fathers, for thou wilt find in them that the Jews have been rebels, and enemies to kings, as hath their city been also, which, for that reason, hath been till now laid waste. We thought proper also to inform thee of this matter, because thou mayst otherwise perhaps be ignorant of it, that if this city be once inhabited and be entirely encompassed with walls, thou wilt be excluded from thy passage to Celesyria and Phoenicia."
2. When Cambyses had read the epistle, being naturally wicked, he was irritated at what they told him, and wrote back to them as follows:
"Cambyses the king, to Rathumus the historiographer, to Beeltethmus, to Semellius the scribe, and the rest that are in commission, and dwelling in Samaria and Phoenicia, after this manner: I have read the epistle that was sent from you; and I gave order that the books of my forefathers should be searched into, and it is there found that this city hath always been an enemy to kings, and its inhabitants have raised seditions and wars. We also are sensible that their kings have been powerful and tyrannical, and have exacted tribute of Celesyria and Phoenicia. Wherefore I gave order, that the Jews shall not be permitted to build that city, lest such mischief as they used to bring upon kings be greatly augmented."
When this epistle was read, Rathumus, and Semellius the scribe, and their associates, got suddenly on horseback, and made haste to Jerusalem; they also brought a great company with them, and forbade the Jews to build the city and the temple. Accordingly, these works were hindered from going on till the second year of the reign of Darius, for nine years more; for Cambyses reigned six years, and within that time overthrew Egypt, and when he was come back, he died at Damascus.
(4) Josephus here follows Herodotus, and those that related how Cyrus made war with the Scythians and Massagets, near the Caspian Sea, and perished in it; while Xenophon's account, which appears never to have been seen by Josephus, that Cyrus died in peace in his own country of Persia, is attested to by the writers of the affairs of Alexander the Great, when they agree that he found Cyrus's sepulcher at Pasargadae, near Persepolis. This account of Xenophon is also confirmed by the circumstances of Cambyses, upon his succession to Cyrus, who, instead of a war to avenge his father's death upon the Scythians and Massagets, and to prevent those nations from overrunning his northern provinces, which would have been the natural consequence of his father's ill success and death there, went immediately to an Egyptian war, long ago begun by Cyrus, according to Xenophon, page 644, and conquered that kingdom; nor is there, that I ever heard of, the least mention in the reign of Cambyses of any war against the Scythians and Massagets that he was ever engaged in all his life.