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Iran and Iranian: Mandane of Mede the Kurdish Princess from Median Empire

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Hamma Mirwaisi
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The true first glance of love is unforgettable between lovers. The energy of love is like the flame of fire until eternity. The love story between Persian prince Cambyses and Kurdish Princess Mandane are one of those love stories to be remembered. The marriage produced the most Nobel and honorable human being in the history of humanity. The Emperor is known as Cyrus the Great of the Median Empire. The Emperor was known for his wisdom and his declaration of human rights charter, in the world for the first time.

The journey of life is full of surprises. Such was the case for young Mandane. Born to the King of Kings, hers was a path of nobility, or so it began. As a young child, her mother, Empress Aryenis, and her father, Emperor Astyages, known as Ahasuerus of the Median Empire, indulged her every whim. She was their only daughter and they loved her dearly. Many people might have fallen victim to indolence and gluttony had they been in her place, but not Mandane. Hers was a character that was virtuous above all else, even as a child.

The year was 570 BC and before you begin to think these were a backward people, let me assure you this was not the case. Mandane's father, Emperor Astyages, was the son of Emperor Cyaxares I, the grandson of Diyako, the great founder of the Median Empire. Diyako was renowned in his lands for his sense of justice. He gained the trust of his people and was an elected leader of the Airyanem Vaejah people. He was loved by his country which extended from the present day southern shore of the Black Sea and the Aran Province--the modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan, north all the way to present day Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Theirs was a huge empire unlike any other known at that time and unlike any other since.

Her mother, Empress Aryenis, was the daughter of King Alyattes and sister of Prince Croesus, who ruled the land of the Lydian Empire. To say that Astyages was the King of Kings was no exaggeration, the Median Empire consisted of more than one hundred kingdoms once, all ruled by one Emperor. His rise to power was unexpected; as the youngest son he was an unlikely heir to the throne. But because each of his three older brothers went off on missions from whom they never returned, he was left to inherit leadership of the Empire.

It was in the summer that she saw Cambyses for the first time. The summer heat forced people to seek the cooler breezes of the higher mountains which had started blowing in from the North. Mandane had spent the last four months at the smaller mountain palace at Alvand Mountain where she had always spent each of her fourteen summers. Unlike the sprawling castle where she spent the majority of her time, this mountain estate was smaller and more of a home to her.

The palace and the castle complex were built by her great grandfather, Emperor Diyako, more with security in mind. He built the castle on higher ground and in the strategic location called Ecbatana (meaning the place of meeting). It is called that because it is the place where leaders of the Airyanem Vaejah nations met to combat Assyrian aggression. The location and the availability of resources made the place an excellent choice for the King of Kings, Diyako, after the people elected him to stop the Assyrians.

Ecbatana, capital of the Median Empire, is beautifully situated at the foot of Mount Alvand, where the Silk Road passes through. The Median dynasty ruled the Median Empire for one and half centuries. The Neo-Assyrian Empire does not make any reference to Ecbatana. It is possible that they never were able to penetrate east of the Alvand mountain chain after the establishment of the Median Empire. The royal fortress was a combination of castle, treasury, and military complex built on a hill and encircled by seven rings of walls. Each wall topped the one below it by the height of battlements designed to sustain a long siege. Such a fortress on a prominence circled by seven defense rings of walls with a formidable military force was representative of Median strongholds during the Neo-Assyrian conflict.

The castle was the place of the King of Kings court and his residence as well. The palace, however, was boring for Princess Mandane. She could not wait for the summer, to get out of palace and be free for a while, as a young girl.

She loved the freedom she was given in these months as she and her governess, Magizadah, left the confines of her classroom and went on walks and picnics in the fields. She especially loved the little lake which was just a short half-mile walk down the hill from the castle. It was there, as she walked with a few servants through the fields of late blooming hollyhock and toadflax that she saw King Cyrus I's courtiers coming up the path. Mandane was hidden from view behind a small berm and was able to watch the procession as it passed on the road toward the city.

Since early dawn, noble guests had been arriving from all over the empire for the annual celebrations of the establishment of Median Empire, which took place at the time of the Zoroastrian religious festival. Many of the attendees were kings from across the vast empire, in attendance to pay tribute to Mandane's father and celebrate the wealth of the regions.

King Cyrus I of Anshan had property in Ecbatana because of his close relationship with the King of Kings of the Median Empire as consultant on the security of the nations. He was visiting at this time to escape the summer heat in Anshan and to do his business as well. He was getting old and wanted to introduce his son to the King of Kings as his successor in case he could no longer rule because of ill health or death. He asked Cambyses to accompany him on this state visit to Ecbatana.

Prince Cambyses saw a small building close to a small lake before reaching the city. He asked his father's permission to go with few guards to drink the water from cold springs by the lake. He would catch up later since the guards knew the road to the city. When they came closer to the lake they saw a beautiful young girl with a few servants in her retinue. He asked her permission to drink water from springs; permission was granted and he approached the girl's company. He saw that she was dressed with silks from China and gold of Babylon, and was indeed the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. He said to her, "I am Prince Cambyses, son of Cyrus of Anshan. May I have the honor to know you, young princess?"

The girl replied politely, "I am Princes Mandane of Mede, daughter of the King of Kings Astyages of Median Empire, and my nickname is Goli Kurdistan ("flower of Kurdistan"). You can call me Goli. They looked at each other and fell in love in that first glance.

Cambyses was speechless for a moment and then bowed his head as is the custom of Airyanem Vaejah people paying respect to a woman. He said, "Goli, indeed you are much more beautiful than the Median Goli (a Median flower) and I wish to visit you again during our visit here." While they were gazing at each with surprise and delight, the governess, Magizadah, approached Mandane.

Mandane said, "Governess Magizadah, this gentleman is Prince Cambyses, son of Cyrus of Anshan, asking permission to visit us again.

Governess Magizadah bowed her head to Prince Cambyses, son of Cyrus of Anshan, and said, "I must get the permission of Mandane's mother, Queen of Media, and will let you know tomorrow."

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Hamma Mirwaisi was exposed to the oppression of Kurds while still a youth, as his education was frequently interrupted by Iraqi government harassment. Forbidden from entering university in 1968, he had little choice but to join the peshmerga (more...)

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