History demonstrates that the quickest spiral downward for a free nation is for its boys to be held back from manhood. In fact, tactics have been used throughout history to prevent boys from growing into responsible men as a means of subjugating entire civilizations. Sometimes this tactic was as subtle as eliminating strong manly role models and sometimes it was as outright as mandating a more feminine way of living. A culture that sees masculinity as threatening and toxic is working toward a far more dangerous end than you might realize.
According to The Histories by Herodotus, the story is that Cyrus, King of the Persian Empire, had conquered Lydia, a nation of people in the western half of what is now the country of Turkey. The King of the Lydians was a man named Croesus, famous for his wealth and wisdom. Cyrus was a powerful emperor but he was also a very savvy politician and he knew how to keep the good will of his conquered subjects. For example, he often let the people he conquered carry on with their usual customs and traditions to keep them from revolting. It is likely for that reason, that Cyrus appointed a Lydian named Pactyes to manage the nation’s gold. While Pactyes stayed in Lydia to manage the wealth, Cyrus embarked on another military campaign with Croesus, the defeated Lydian King, with him as an advisor.
After Cyrus had been marching for just a few weeks, he received a message that Pactyes had gone down to the coast with the Lydian gold to hire mercenaries and plan a revolt against the Persians. When Cyrus heard what the Lydians were planning he looked at Croesus and said, “How can I bring an end to all of this? It seems that the Lydians will not cease to bring trouble on me and on themselves. My best course, I fear, is to enslave them all.”
Croesus, of course, was a Lydian himself - he loved his people. He didn’t want his people to be enslaved and he knew he had to convince Cyrus to change his mind. Croesus knew that in order to save his people from a life of bondage, he would have to propose an alternative to Cyrus that was just as drastic and extreme as enslavement. Here is what Croesus said to King Cyrus,
“Oh king, what you say is fairly said. Yet do not give full vent to your wrath, nor destroy an ancient city that is guiltless alike of former and current misdoings … Forgive the Lydians but take the following measures to ensure their future loyalty and good conduct. Forbid them to possess weapons of war, order them to wear tunics under their cloaks and soft slippers on their feet, and make them teach their sons to play the lute and the harp and to tend shops for a living. You will soon see them turning into women instead of men and they will never again be a source of trouble for you.”
After hearing this suggestion, Herodotus says that Cyrus was delighted with the idea and was no more troubled by the Lydians.
Think about this: King Cyrus was facing a rebellion and was ready to enslave an entire people in order to subjugate them once and for all and the only equally drastic alternative to enslavement was to deprive the men of their masculinity. Reflect Croesus’s suggestions to king Cyrus:
“…Forbid them to possess weapons of war…”
Have you ever had a close call where you thought you might need to draw your gun to protect yourself? The ability to defend yourself is a fundamental right. Don’t let anyone disarm you from defending yourself and your family and don’t let anyone try to disarm you from the power you wield when you hold to the truth. During the mid 20th century, Andrei Sakharov designed the atom bomb for the Soviet Union but after seeing its devastating effects and the potential danger of a nuclear arms race, he became a dissident of the Kremlin and was exiled for his outspoken views. Here’s what he had to say about the power of truth:
“I’ve always thought that the most powerful weapon in the world was the bomb and that’s why I gave it to my people, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the most powerful weapon in the world is not the bomb but it’s the truth.”
Truth is empowering and it will strengthen anyone who attaches themselves to it. To live a life that’s meaningful and great involves, among other things, contending for what is true and right. Truth might not always be pretty or even helpful; sometimes it brings pain, but even then, it’s usually just a growing pain that, if we let it, will leave us stronger in the end. A man who fails to fight for the truth is a man who fights for himself and a man who fights for himself is no man at all. Don’t let go of the truth, it may be all you have to protect you from those that wish to enslave you with their lies.
“…order them to wear tunics under their cloaks and soft slippers on their feet…”
Have you ever gotten the impression that there are some things that people can’t say anymore, regardless of how true it might be, for fear of the public backlash and shaming that comes with offending someone? If you’re wearing ‘soft slippers’ as you walk through life, you’ll be treading lightly and dancing around the issues, afraid to put your foot down when you know you should. Softness will render you immobile and ineffective. There’s a reason we send Marines to war with combat boots on their feet. You need to be equipped to stand up when things get hard or the path is difficult and painful. If you get offended easily or are easily hurt from perceived slights, you might have soft slippers on your feet. If you harbor grudges with people over things that no one else seems to care about and you shouldn’t either, it’s because you have a softness about you that’s preventing you from battling through the uncomfortable.
In the book, Greeks and Barbarians, Thomas Harrison says of this particular mandate,
“Thus, from renowned warriors, the Lydians became the least warlike of men.’ In fact, ‘they were reduced to being publicans, wandering entertainers and procurers. These people, formerly so powerful because of their activeness, and intrepid in war, henceforth rendered effeminate by soft living and debauchery, thus lost their ancient virtue, and those whom the habit of battle had made invincible before Cyrus, letting themselves slide into debauchery, were vanquished by idleness and sloth.’”
Doesn’t this sound like a generation of men in America today? Soft living wandering entertainers void of ancient virtues and a habit of battling through. Here’s my suggestion – lace up some preverbal combat boots so you can stand up when somebody needs to stand. Understand grit and adopt it as the policy of your life. You’ll be stronger for it and the fear of all the other little things that used to bother you will hardly be noticeable because you’ll be able to focus on the bigger picture instead of being scared of what you might step on every time you try to move your feet.
“…and make them teach their sons to play the lute and the harp and to tend shops for a living. You will soon see them turning into women instead of men and they will never again be a source of trouble for you.”
I once heard someone say, “If boys don’t learn, men won’t grow.” Cyrus knew this. Cyrus’s plan was to ensure the boys of Lydia didn’t learn how to be men. I want to be very clear, there is nothing wrong with men and boys learning music theory or mastering an instrument. There is something wrong however, with anyone dedicating their life to something, anything, if they never grow up to become productive and capable of directing their own lives more so than just becoming ‘wandering entertainers” as Harrison put it. This ties into what Cyrus was attempting to do with the males in Lydia – teach the young boys a softer way of life from a young age and reduce the men in a similar way so they cannot be a model of “ancient virtue, and those whom the habit of battle had made invincible before.” Role models are important.
Croesus told King Cyrus, “You will soon see them turning into women instead of men and they will never again be a source of trouble for you.” This article isn’t to say that either men or women are better than the other, this is only to say that masculinity is important. A culture that sees masculinity as threatening and toxic is working toward a far more dangerous end than most people care to realize. Don’t fall for it.