Combat between two warriors and the death of Cyrus
The war against the Massagetae
For years Cyrus conquered land after land virtually unchallenged. In 529 BC, he decided to extend his empire to the region between the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea, where the Massagetae (whose name means ‘Great Scythians’) lived. In the first battle, Cyrus achieved a partial victory, although he took Spargapises, son of Queen Tomyris, as a prisoner. The queen begged him to free her son and leave her territories, but Cyrus denied and decided to crush the Massagetae.
Cyrus is defeated
According to Herodotus (Book I, CCXIV), the battle between the two armies was fierce and bloody. In the tapestry, this is represented through pairs of soldiers fighting hand-to-hand. The battle turns to carnage which “lasted a long time, with neither side yielding, until at last the Massagetae triumphed”. Cyrus died inside his tent after the battle, and we can see here in the tapestry.
Series Story of Cyrus
Fifth tapestry of the series
Models Anonymous, based on Michiel Coxcie
Manufacture Antwerp, c. 1590
Fabric Silk and wool
Size 337 x 255 cm
Location Royal Palace of Aranjuez
On display Hall of the King’s Halberdiers
Origin Documented in the royal collections since the time of Charles III