It was at the close of the Peloponnesian War that Darius II., King of Persia, died, leaving two sons, Artaxerxes and Cyrus. These two heirs could not agree which should reign. Artaxerxes claimed the throne because he was the elder, and Cyrus because he was the first son born after their father had become king; for in Persia it was the custom for a ruler to choose as his successor a son born after he had taken possession of the throne.
The quarrel between the two brothers daily became more bitter; and when Artaxerxes made himself king by force, Cyrus swore that he would compel him to give up his place again.
To oust his brother from the throne, Cyrus collected an army in Asia Minor; and, as he could not secure enough Persian soldiers, he hired a body of eleven thousand Greeks, commanded by a Spartan named Clearchus.
This Greek army was only a small part of Cyrus’ force; but he expected great things from it, as the Persians had already found out to their cost that the Greeks were very good fighters.
After a long march, the armies of both brothers met at Cunaxa; and there was a terrible battle, in the midst of which Cyrus was killed. Of course, his death ended the quarrel, and the Persians all surrendered.
But the Greeks continued fighting bravely, until Artaxerxes sent them word that his brother was dead, and that he would have them guided safely back to their own country if they would lay down their arms.
The Greeks, believing him, immediately stopped fighting; and their officers accepted an invitation to enter the Persian camp, and be present at the council of all the generals.
Their trust was sadly misplaced, however; for no sooner had the Greek officers entered the tent than they were surrounded and slain. The Persian king then sent a message to the Greek troops, saying that their leaders were all dead, and summoning them to give up their arms and to swear to obey him in all things.