STORY OF TOMYRIS
Cyrus II (or more commonly known as Cyrus the Great) was the one who founded the Achaemenid Empire, and, through many long and arduous military conquests, grew the empire vastly. Although his empire was already considered big, Cyrus was still not contented, as he felt that he could takeover even more civilisations. Thus, he started to look for his next target and eventually settled upon his next target – the Massagetae (a semi-nomadic group living in Central Asia, near to present-day Kazakhstan)
After the death of her husband, the chieftain of their nomadic tribe Massagetae, Tomyris stepped up to the challenge to lead their tribe in his place.
Cyrus initially planned to obtain control and conquer over Massagetae by attempting to ask Tomyris for her hand in marriage. The widowed leader was not amused and even saw the underlying motive behind his actions and scheme, thus rejecting Cyrus’ proposal.
Cyrus did not take the rejection well, thinking that he had been sneered at by Tomyris. Being a ruler of such an astonishing empire, Cyrus obviously would not be able to take that lying down. He decided to engage the next best plan he had, which was to declare and start a war on Tomyris to invade her country and expand his empire.
When Tomyris found out that Cyrus was planning to build a bridge across the river to get to her, she told him that she would take on the challenge and fight him in war, but she would only do it either on her territory or his, never entertaining the thought of having that bridge built.
Adapted from: here
Cyrus was prepared to listen to Tomyris and comprised by battling it out on his side of the river. However, Croesus, an advisor, told him that he should just stand his ground and launch an unannounced attack. I guess that’s what we modern people call “strike the iron while it’s still hot”. Eventually, Cyrus yielded and took up the advice of Croesus. It was said that traps were laid by Cyrus’ men for the enemy.
Adapted from: here
Eventually, by resorting to dirty trickery, the Persians won the first battle. How, you may ask? By leaving wine of course. The Massagetae, who were not used to drinking wine, got drunk. Upon seeing this, Cyrus launched his attack, killing many of the Massagetae and capturing Tomyris’ son, Spargapises, the general of her army, who eventually committed suicide while still within captivity.
This got Tomyris angry and she wrote to Cyrus saying that she wanted a second battle. But her message was ignored by Cyrus.
The Persians thought they would win the second battle, even before it even started given that they easily won the first. However, they were proven very wrong. Coupled with the rage of losing her son, Tomyris gave everything she had into the battle. She gathered every single one of her forces from the kingdom and launched an attack on Cyrus, using daggers and arrows as the battle drew on. It was said to be a long fight as both sides were not willing to back down. Eventually, Tomyris was victorious and killed Cyrus.
530 BC - death and the fall of Cyrus the (not-so) Great
After the death of Cyrus, it was said that Tomyris had his corpse beheaded and crucified, then filled a wineskin with human blood and have Cyrus’ head shoved into it while saying "but thus I make good my threat, and give you your fill of blood."
STORY OF ZENOBIA
Zenobia was married to Lucius Septimus Odaenthus, Roman governor of Palmyra, Syria as a second wife and had a son named Vaballathus. Unfortunately, her husband and her stepson were murdered due to internal conflict . Zenobia took over her husband's role as her son was too young and unable to be in power. The relationship between Palmyra and Rome had been amicable because they had great understanding and were mutual beneficial during Odaenthus' reign.
However, Zenobia had other plans with their relationship with Rome and wanted to revolt against them. During the time when Zenobia was in power, Rome was in turmoil with the rather constant changing of their emperor. Zenobia took this chance when Rome would be too caught up with their own internal chaos to monitor her every actions to slowly gathered more lands of their territories into her growing empire.
As she continued to take more over territories, she was also essentially cutting off important trade routes for Rome. The other emperors of Rome either failed to notice what Zenobia had been doing or that she had grown too strong with the many additional lands she conquered for them to be able to stop her.
Aurelian, the emperor at that time decided that Zenobia was getting too powerful and was a threat to the Roman Empire. He then set out to slowly take away the territories under her and reduced the amount of control and influence Zenobia had. It was inevitable that both of them got to direct blows and Aurelian eventually managed to catch Zenobia and her son after a few battles.
To sum up, we chose Zenobia and Tomyris as the focus of our blogpost to emphasise that strong independent women are not just a figment of our imagination nor are they known only as a 'modern thing' but was also seen in the past. They were not only capable, but were very strong-willed to be able to accomplish what they had and their accomplishments were even considered more than what some men could ever dream of achieving. Women were always thought to be a follower, or known to be demure and soft-spoken. They were said to be kept at homes, going only where their husbands went. Also, historical texts and records of women and their accomplishments were minimal but these two women were just a few out of the many that have existed to prove that mindset wrong.
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Feat. Ruiying as Tomyris, Ezebel as Zenobia