Even the more reprehensible magicians have generally shown a truer understanding of what constitutes human happiness than most rulers and conquerors.


Three thousand years ago, the land we now call Iran was ruled by a people called the Medes. The Medes organized themselves into six tribes, each of which was responsible for a different societal function. The first five are largely forgotten. The members of the sixth were called the magi.

The magi were the priests of the ancient Median civilization. Historians aren’t certain about how they came to occupy the role, but what is clear from the archaeological record is the extent to which the Median kings depended on them.

Whenever a king was faced with ...

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