This tapestry belongs to a series of five depicting scenes from the life of Cyrus the Great, legendary founder of the Persian empire. Herodotus tells of an attack by Cyrus on a distant land ruled by Queen Tomyris. Cyrus sacrificed a portion of his army to entrap the enemy by leaving them behind feasting on a large banquet. Tomyris’s troops, led by her son Spargapises, attacked Cyrus’s decoy troops, then stopped to consume the remains of the food and wine. Cyrus ambushed them and captured the queen’s son. Although Cyrus freed Spargapises, he immediately took his own life.
In revenge, Tomyris led her troops against Cyrus. After defeating his army, she searched the battlefield for Cyrus’s corpse and exacted her vengeance by dipping the body in blood – giving him his “fill of blood” as she had vowed. Grand gestures and elaborate costumes were frequently employed in tapestry design. The figures are expertly situated in a landscape, which serves as the setting for other elements of the story. In this tapestry, Spargapises is held captive at the left; a battle rages farther back.