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Cyrus the Great

Cyrus the Great

Overview
Cyrus II of PersiaCyrus II of Persia ( Kuruš (c. 600 BC or 576 BC–530 BC), commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East
Ancient Near East
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia , ancient Egypt, ancient Iran The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia...

, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia
Southwest Asia
Western Asia, West Asia, Southwest Asia or Southwestern Asia are terms that describe the westernmost portion of Asia. The terms are partly coterminous with the Middle East, which describes a geographical position in relation to Western Europe rather than its location within Asia...

 and much of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

, parts of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

. From the Mediterranean sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 and Hellespont in the west to the Indus River
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 in the east, Cyrus the Great created the largest empire the world had yet seen.

The reign of Cyrus the Great lasted between 29 and 31 years.
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Cyrus II of PersiaCyrus II of Persia ( Kuruš (c. 600 BC or 576 BC–530 BC), commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East
Ancient Near East
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia , ancient Egypt, ancient Iran The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia...

, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia
Southwest Asia
Western Asia, West Asia, Southwest Asia or Southwestern Asia are terms that describe the westernmost portion of Asia. The terms are partly coterminous with the Middle East, which describes a geographical position in relation to Western Europe rather than its location within Asia...

 and much of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

, parts of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

. From the Mediterranean sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 and Hellespont in the west to the Indus River
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 in the east, Cyrus the Great created the largest empire the world had yet seen.

The reign of Cyrus the Great lasted between 29 and 31 years. Cyrus built his empire by conquering first the Median Empire
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

, then the Lydian Empire
Lydia
Lydia was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the modern Turkish provinces of Manisa and inland İzmir. Its population spoke an Anatolian language known as Lydian....

 and eventually the Neo-Babylonian Empire
Neo-Babylonian Empire
The Neo-Babylonian Empire or Second Babylonian Empire was a period of Mesopotamian history which began in 626 BC and ended in 539 BC. During the preceding three centuries, Babylonia had been ruled by their fellow Akkadian speakers and northern neighbours, Assyria. Throughout that time Babylonia...

. Either before or after Babylon, he led an expedition into central Asia, which resulted in major campaigns that were described as having brought "into subjection every nation without exception". Cyrus did not venture into Egypt, as he himself died in battle, fighting the Massagetae
Massagetae
The Massageteans or Massagetaeans were an Iranian nomadic confederation in antiquity known primarily from the writings of Herodotus. Their name was probably akin to Thyssagetae.-Name:...

 along the Syr Darya
Syr Darya
The Syr Darya , also transliterated Syrdarya or Sirdaryo, is a river in Central Asia, sometimes known as the Jaxartes or Yaxartes from its Ancient Greek name . The Greek name is derived from Old Persian, Yakhsha Arta , a reference to the color of the river's water...

 in December 530 BC. He was succeeded by his son, Cambyses II, who managed to add to the empire by conquering Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, Nubia
Nubia
Nubia is a region along the Nile river, which is located in northern Sudan and southern Egypt.There were a number of small Nubian kingdoms throughout the Middle Ages, the last of which collapsed in 1504, when Nubia became divided between Egypt and the Sennar sultanate resulting in the Arabization...

, and Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica is the eastern coastal region of Libya.Also known as Pentapolis in antiquity, it was part of the Creta et Cyrenaica province during the Roman period, later divided in Libia Pentapolis and Libia Sicca...

 during his short rule.

Cyrus the Great respected the customs and religions of the lands he conquered. It is said that in universal history, the role of the Achaemenid empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 founded by Cyrus lies in its very successful model for centralized administration and establishing a government working to the advantage and profit of its subjects. In fact, the administration of the empire through satraps and the vital principle of forming a government at Pasargadae
Pasargadae
Pasargadae , the capital of Cyrus the Great and also his last resting place, was a city in ancient Persia, and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.-History:...

 were the works of Cyrus. Aside from his own nation, Persia (modern Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

), Cyrus the Great also left a lasting legacy on the Jewish religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 through his Edict of Restoration, where because of his policies in Babylonia, he is referred to by the people of the Jewish faith, as "the anointed of the Lord" or a "Messiah".

Cyrus the Great is also well recognized for his achievements in human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

, politics
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

, and military strategy
Military strategy
Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek strategos, strategy when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow sense as the "art of the general", 'the art of arrangement' of troops...

, as well as his influence on both Eastern
Eastern world
__FORCETOC__The term Eastern world refers very broadly to the various cultures or social structures and philosophical systems of Eastern Asia or geographically the Eastern Culture...

 and Western civilizations
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

. To date, Cyrus the Great and his historical signature define the national identity for many Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

ians. Cyrus and, indeed, the Achaemenid influence in the ancient world also extended as far as Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, where many Athenians adopted aspects of the Achaemenid Persian(ancient Iranian) culture as their own, in a reciprocal cultural exchange.

Etymology


The name Cyrus is a Latinized
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 form derived from a Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 form of the Old Persian
Old Persian language
The Old Persian language is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages . Old Persian appears primarily in the inscriptions, clay tablets, and seals of the Achaemenid era...

 Kūruš. The name and its meaning has been recorded in ancient inscriptions in different languages. The ancient Greek historians Ctesias
Ctesias
Ctesias of Cnidus was a Greek physician and historian from Cnidus in Caria. Ctesias, who lived in the 5th century BC, was physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, whom he accompanied in 401 BC on his expedition against his brother Cyrus the Younger....

 and Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 noted that Cyrus was named from Kuros, the Sun, a concept which has been interpreted as meaning "like the Sun" by noting its relation to the Persian noun for sun, khor, while using -vash as a suffix of likeness. Karl Hoffmann
Karl Hoffmann (German historian)
Karl Hoffmann was a German linguist who specialized in Indo-European and Indo-Iranian studies. He is most recognized for his achievements in his studies of Vedic Sanskrit, Avestan and Old Persian languages....

 has suggested a translation based on the meaning of an Indo-European
Indo-European
Indo-European may refer to:* Indo-European languages** Aryan race, a 19th century and early 20th century term for those peoples who are the native speakers of Indo-European languages...

-root "to humiliate" and accordingly "Cyrus" means "humiliator of the enemy in verbal contest." In the Persian language
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 and specially in Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Cyrus' name is spelled as "کوروش بزرگ" or "" which translates to Cyrus the Great. In the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, he is known as Koresh
Koresh
Koresh is a Hebrew name corresponding to the anglicised name Cyrus . It can also mean sun...

 .

Dynastic history




The Persian domination and kingdom in the Iranian plateau started by an extension of the Achaemenid dynasty, who expanded their earlier domination possibly from the 9th century BC onward. The eponymous founder of this dynasty was Achaemenes
Achaemenes
Achaemenēs was the eponymous ancestor of the Achaemenid Dynasty, who ruled Persia between 705 BC and 675 BC.The name is a bahuvrihi compound literally translating to "having a friend's mind", or "characterized by a follower's spirit"....

 (from Old Persian Haxāmaniš). Achaemenids are "descendants of Achaemenes" as Darius the Great, the ninth king of the dynasty, traces his genealogy to him and declares "for this reason we are called Achaemenids". Achaemenes built the state Parsumash in the southwest of Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 and was succeeded by Teispes, who took the title "King of Anshan
Anshan (Persia)
Anshan - History :Before 1973, when it was identified as Tall-i Malyan, Anshan had been assumed by scholars to be somewhere in the central Zagros mountain range....

" after seizing Anshan city and enlarging his kingdom further to include Pars proper. Ancient documents mention that Teispes had a son called Cyrus I, who also succeeded his father as "king of Anshan". Cyrus I had a full brother whose name is recorded as Ariaramnes.

In 600 BC, Cyrus I was succeeded by his son Cambyses I who reigned until 559 BC. Cyrus the Great was a son of Cambyses I, who named his son after his father, Cyrus I. There are several inscriptions of Cyrus the Great and later kings that refer to Cambyses I as the "great king" and "king of Anshan". Among these are some passages in the Cyrus cylinder where Cyrus calls himself "son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anshan". Another inscription (from CM's) mentions Cambyses I as "mighty king" and "an Achaemenian", which according to bulk of scholarly opinion was engraved under Darius and considered as a later forgery by Darius. However Cambyses II's maternal grandfather Pharnaspes is named by Herodotus as "an Achaemenian" too. Xenophon's account in Cyropædia further names Cambyses's wife as Mandane and mentions Cambyses as king of Iran (ancient Persia). These agree with Cyrus's own inscriptions, as Anshan and Parsa were different names of the same land. These also agree with other non-Iranian accounts, except at one point from Herodotus stating that Cambyses was not a king but a "Persian of good family". However, in some other passages, Herodotus's account is wrong also on the name of the son of Chishpish, which he mentions as Cambyses but, according to modern scholars, should be Cyrus I.

The traditional view based on archaeological research and the genealogy given in the Behistun Inscription
Behistun Inscription
The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون...

 and by Herodotus holds that Cyrus the Great was an Achaemenian. However it has been suggested by M. Waters that Cyrus is unrelated to Achaemenes or Darius the Great
Darius I of Persia
Darius I , also known as Darius the Great, was the third king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire...

 and that his family was of Teispid and Anshanite origin instead of Achaemenid.

Early life


The best-known date for the birth of Cyrus the Great is either 600-599 BC or 576-575 BC. Little is known of his early years, as there are only a few sources known to detail that part of his life, and they have been damaged or lost.

Herodotus's story of Cyrus's early life belongs to a genre of legends in which abandoned children of noble birth
Nobility
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

, such as Oedipus
Oedipus
Oedipus was a mythical Greek king of Thebes. He fulfilled a prophecy that said he would kill his father and marry his mother, and thus brought disaster on his city and family...

 and Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus are Rome's twin founders in its traditional foundation myth, although the former is sometimes said to be the sole founder...

, return to claim their royal positions. Similar to other culture's heroes and founders of great empires, folk
Folk
The English word Folk is derived from a Germanic noun, *fulka meaning "people" or "army"...

 traditions abound regarding his family background. According to Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

, he was the grandson of the Median king Astyages
Astyages
Astyages Astyages Astyages (spelled by Herodotus as Ἀστυάγης - Astyages; by Ctesias as Astyigas; by Diodorus as Aspadas; Akkadian: Ištumegu, was the last king of the Median Empire, r...

 and was brought up by humble herding folk. In another version, he was presented as the son of a poor family that worked in the Median court. These folk stories are, however, contradicted by Cyrus's own testimony, according to which he was preceded as king of Persia by his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

After the birth of Cyrus the Great, Astyages
Astyages
Astyages Astyages Astyages (spelled by Herodotus as Ἀστυάγης - Astyages; by Ctesias as Astyigas; by Diodorus as Aspadas; Akkadian: Ištumegu, was the last king of the Median Empire, r...

 had a dream that his Magi
Magi
Magi is a term, used since at least the 4th century BC, to denote a follower of Zoroaster, or rather, a follower of what the Hellenistic world associated Zoroaster with, which...

 interpreted as a sign that his grandson would eventually overthrow him. He then ordered his steward Harpagus
Harpagus
Harpagus, also known as Harpagos or Hypargus , was a Median general from the 6th century BCE, credited by Herodotus as having put Cyrus the Great on the throne through his defection during the battle of Pasargadae.-Biography:According to Herodotus' Histories, Harpagus was a member of the Median...

 to kill the infant. Harpagus, morally unable to kill a newborn, summoned the Mardian
Amard
The Amard people, or Amardis were a tribe living along the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, including current day Amol, Iran. The name is also seen as Amardi, Amardian, Amardae, etc....

 Mitradates (which the historian Nicolaus of Damascus
Nicolaus of Damascus
Nicolaus of Damascus was a Greek historian and philosopher who lived during the Augustan age of the Roman Empire. His name is derived from that of his birthplace, Damascus. He was born around 64 BC....

 calls Atradates), a royal bandit herdsman from the mountainous region bordering the Saspires, and ordered him to leave the baby to die in the mountains. Luckily, the herdsman and his wife (whom Herodotus calls Cyno in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, and Spaca-o in Median) took pity and raised the child as their own, passing off their recently stillborn
Stillbirth
A stillbirth occurs when a fetus has died in the uterus. The Australian definition specifies that fetal death is termed a stillbirth after 20 weeks gestation or the fetus weighs more than . Once the fetus has died the mother still has contractions and remains undelivered. The term is often used in...

 infant as the murdered Cyrus. For the origin of Cyrus the Great's mother, Herodotus identifies Mandane of Media
Mandane of Media
Mandane of Media was a princess of Media and, later, the Queen consort of Cambyses I of Anshan and mother of Cyrus the Great, ruler of the Persia's Achaemenid Dynasty.-Mandane in Herodotus' histories:...

, and Ctesias
Ctesias
Ctesias of Cnidus was a Greek physician and historian from Cnidus in Caria. Ctesias, who lived in the 5th century BC, was physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, whom he accompanied in 401 BC on his expedition against his brother Cyrus the Younger....

 insists that she is fully Persian but gives no name, while Nicolaus gives the name "Argoste" as Atradates's wife; whether this figure represents Cyno or Cambyses's unnamed Persian queen has yet to be determined. It is also noted that Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

 has said that Cyrus was originally named Agradates by his stepparents; therefore, it is probable that, when reuniting with his original family, following the naming customs, Cyrus's father, Cambyses I, names him Cyrus after his grandfather, who was Cyrus I.

Herodotus claims that when Cyrus the Great was ten years old, it was obvious that Cyrus was not a herdsman's son, stating that his behavior was too noble. Astyages
Astyages
Astyages Astyages Astyages (spelled by Herodotus as Ἀστυάγης - Astyages; by Ctesias as Astyigas; by Diodorus as Aspadas; Akkadian: Ištumegu, was the last king of the Median Empire, r...

 interviewed the boy and noticed that they resembled each other. Astyages ordered Harpagus to explain what he had done with the baby, and, after Harpagus confessed that he had not killed the boy, Astyages tricked him into eating his own broiled and chopped up son. Astyages was more lenient with Cyrus and allowed him to return to his biological parents, Cambyses and Mandane. While Herodotus's description may be a legend, it does give insight into the figures surrounding Cyrus the Great's early life.

Cyrus the Great had a wife named Cassandane
Cassandane
Cassandane was an Achaemenian Persian noblewoman and the "dearly loved" wife of Cyrus the Great. She was a daughter of Pharnaspes. She bore four children for Cyrus the Great : Cambyses II who succeeded his father and conquered Egypt, Smerdis who also reigned as the king of Persia for a short...

. She was an Achaemenian and daughter of Pharnaspes. From this marriage, Cyrus had four children: Cambyses II, Bardiya
Bardiya
Bardiya was a son of Cyrus the Great and the younger brother of Cambyses II, both Persian kings. There are sharply divided views on his life, he may have ruled the Achaemenid Empire for a few months in 522 BCE, or he may have been impersonated by a magus called Gaumata. -Name and sources:The...

 (Smerdis), Atossa
Atossa
Atossa was an Achaemenid queen and daughter of Cyrus the Great and his wife, Cassandane...

, and another daughter whose name is not attested in the ancient sources. Also, Cyrus had a fifth child named Artystone
Artystone
Artystone was a Persian princess, daughter of king Cyrus the Great, and sister or half-sister of Atossa and Cambyses II. Along with Atossa and her niece Parmys, Artystone married king Darius I...

, the sister or half-sister of Atossa, who may not have been the daughter of Cassandane. Cyrus the Great had a specially dear love for Cassandane. Cassandane also loved Cyrus to the point that on her death bed she is noted as having found it more bitter to leave Cyrus, than to depart her life. According to the chronicle of Nabonidus, when Cassandane died, all the nations of Cyrus's empire observed "a great mourning", and, particularly in Babylonia, there was probably even a public mourning lasting for six days (identified from 21–26 March 538 BC). Her tomb is suggested to be at Cyrus's capital, Pasargadae
Pasargadae
Pasargadae , the capital of Cyrus the Great and also his last resting place, was a city in ancient Persia, and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.-History:...

. There are other accounts suggesting that Cyrus the Great also married a daughter of the Median king Astyages, named Amytis
Amytis of Media
Amuhia or Amytis of Media was the daughter or granddaughter of the king Cyaxares, and the wife of Nebuchadnezzar II.-Birth:Amytis was either born to Cyaxares and his wife or to Cyaxares's son and daughter-in-law...

. This name may not be the correct one, however. Cyrus probably had married once, after the death of Cassandane, to a Median woman in his royal family. Cyrus the Great's son Cambyses II would become the king of Persia, and his daughter Atossa
Atossa
Atossa was an Achaemenid queen and daughter of Cyrus the Great and his wife, Cassandane...

 would marry Darius the Great and bear him Xerxes I.

Rise and military campaigns



Median Empire


Though his father died in 551 BC, Cyrus the Great had already succeeded to the throne in 559 BC; however, Cyrus was not yet an independent ruler. Like his predecessors, Cyrus had to recognize Median overlordship. During Astyages's reign, the Median Empire may have ruled over the majority of the Ancient Near East
Ancient Near East
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia , ancient Egypt, ancient Iran The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia...

, from the Lydia
Lydia
Lydia was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the modern Turkish provinces of Manisa and inland İzmir. Its population spoke an Anatolian language known as Lydian....

n frontier in the west to the Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

ns and Persians in the east.

In Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

's version, Harpagus
Harpagus
Harpagus, also known as Harpagos or Hypargus , was a Median general from the 6th century BCE, credited by Herodotus as having put Cyrus the Great on the throne through his defection during the battle of Pasargadae.-Biography:According to Herodotus' Histories, Harpagus was a member of the Median...

, seeking vengeance, convinced Cyrus to rally the Persian people to revolt against their feudal lords, the Medes. However, it is likely that both Harpagus and Cyrus rebelled due to their dissatisfaction with Astyages's policies. From the start of the revolt in summer 553 BC, with his first battles taking place from early 552 BC, Harpagus, with Cyrus, led his armies against the Medes until the capture of Ecbatana
Ecbatana
Ecbatana is supposed to be the capital of Astyages , which was taken by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the sixth year of Nabonidus...

 in 549 BC, effectively conquering the Median Empire.

While Cyrus the Great seems to have accepted the crown of Media, by 546 BC, he officially assumed the title "King of Persia" instead. With Astyages out of power, all of his vassals (including many of Cyrus's relatives) were now under his command. His uncle Arsames, who had been the king of the city-state of Parsa
Persepolis
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

 under the Medes, therefore would have had to give up his throne. However, this transfer of power within the family seems to have been smooth, and it is likely that Arsames was still the nominal governor of Parsa, under Cyrus's authority—more of a Prince or a Grand Duke than a King. His son, Hystaspes
Hystaspes (father of Darius I)
Vishtaspa , known under his Hellenized name Hystaspes , was a Persian satrap of Bactria and Persis, and the father of Darius I of Persia....

, who was also Cyrus's second cousin, was then made satrap
Satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

 of Parthia and Phrygia
Phrygia
In antiquity, Phrygia was a kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia, in what is now modern-day Turkey. The Phrygians initially lived in the southern Balkans; according to Herodotus, under the name of Bryges , changing it to Phruges after their final migration to Anatolia, via the...

. Cyrus the Great thus united the twin Achamenid kingdoms of Parsa and Anshan into Persia proper. Arsames would live to see his grandson become Darius the Great, Shahanshah of Persia, after the deaths of both of Cyrus's sons. Cyrus's conquest of Media was merely the start of his wars.

Lydian Empire and Asia Minor



The exact dates of the Lydian conquest are unknown, but it must have taken place between Cyrus's overthrow of the Median kingdom (550 BC) and his conquest of Babylon (539 BC). It was common in the past to give 547 BC as the year of the conquest due to some interpretations of the Nabonidus Chronicle
Nabonidus Chronicle
The Nabonidus Chronicle is an ancient Babylonian text, part of a larger series of Babylonian Chronicles incribed in cuneiform script on clay tablets...

, but this position is currently not much held. The Lydians first attacked the Achaemenid Empire's city of Pteria
Pteria (Turkey)
Pteria was the capital of the Assyrians in northern Cappadocia. They were said by Herodotus to have been taken and ruined by Croesus in 547 BC. It also was the place of an undecided battle between Cyrus the Great and Croesus....

 in Cappadocia
Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia, largely in Nevşehir Province.In the time of Herodotus, the Cappadocians were reported as occupying the whole region from Mount Taurus to the vicinity of the Euxine...

. Croesus
Croesus
Croesus was the king of Lydia from 560 to 547 BC until his defeat by the Persians. The fall of Croesus made a profound impact on the Hellenes, providing a fixed point in their calendar. "By the fifth century at least," J.A.S...

 besieged and captured the city enslaving its inhabitants. Meanwhile, the Persians invited the citizens of Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

 who were part of the Lydian kingdom to revolt against their ruler. The offer was rebuffed, and thus Cyrus levied an army and marched against the Lydians, increasing his numbers while passing through nations in his way. The Battle of Pteria
Battle of Pteria
At the Battle of Pteria in 547 BC, the Persian forces of Cyrus the Great fought a drawn battle with the invading Lydian forces of Croesus, forcing Croesus to withdraw back west into his own kingdom.-Background:...

 was effectively a stalemate, with both sides suffering heavy casualties by nightfall. Croesus retreated to Sardis
Sardis
Sardis or Sardes was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart in Turkey's Manisa Province...

 the following morning.

While in Sardis, Croesus sent out requests for his allies to send aid to Lydia. However, near the end of the winter, before the allies could unite, Cyrus the Great pushed the war into Lydian territory and besieged Croesus in his capital, Sardis
Sardis
Sardis or Sardes was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart in Turkey's Manisa Province...

. Shortly before the final Battle of Thymbra
Battle of Thymbra
The Battle of Thymbra was the decisive battle in the war between Croesus of the Lydian Empire against Cyrus the Great in the first months of 547 BC. Cyrus, having pursued Croesus into Lydia following the drawn Battle of Pteria, met the remains of Croesus' partly disbanded army in battle on the...

 between the two rulers, Harpagus advised Cyrus the Great to place his dromedaries
Dromedary
The dromedary or Arabian camel is a large, even-toed ungulate with one hump on its back. Its native range is unclear, but it was probably the Arabian Peninsula. The domesticated form occurs widely in North Africa and the Middle East...

 in front of his warriors; the Lydian horses, not used to the dromedaries' smell, would be very afraid. The strategy worked; the Lydian cavalry was routed. Cyrus defeated and captured Croesus. Cyrus occupied the capital at Sardis, conquering the Lydian kingdom in 546 BC. According to Herodotus, Cyrus the Great spared Croesus's life and kept him as an advisor, but this account conflicts with some translations of the contemporary Nabonidus Chronicle (the King who was himself subdued by Cyrus the Great after conquest of Babylonia), which interpret that the king of Lydia was slain.

Before returning to the capital, a Lydian named Pactyas was entrusted by Cyrus the Great to send Croesus' treasury to Persia. However, soon after Cyrus's departure, Pactyas hired mercenaries and caused an uprising in Sardis, revolting against the Persian satrap
Satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

 of Lydia, Tabalus. With recommendations from Croesus that he should turn the minds of the Lydian people to luxury, Cyrus sent Mazares
Mazares
Mazares was a Median general who defected to Cyrus the Great when the latter overthrew his grandfather, Astyages and formed the Persian Empire.-Mazares in Herodotus' Histories:...

, one of his commanders, to subdue the insurrection but demanded that Pactyas be returned alive. Upon Mazares's arrival, Pactyas fled to Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

, where he had hired more mercenaries. Mazares marched his troops into the Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 country and subdued the cities of Magnesia
Magnesia on the Maeander
Magnesia or Magnesia on the Maeander was an ancient Greek city in Anatolia, considerable in size, at an important location commercially and strategically in the triangle of Priene, Ephesus and Tralles. The city was named Magnesia, after the Magnetes from Thessaly who settled the area along with...

 and Priene
Priene
Priene was an ancient Greek city of Ionia at the base of an escarpment of Mycale, about north of the then course of the Maeander River, from today's Aydin, from today's Söke and from ancient Miletus...

. The end of Pactyas is unknown, but after capture, he was probably sent to Cyrus and put to death after a succession of tortures.

Mazares
Mazares
Mazares was a Median general who defected to Cyrus the Great when the latter overthrew his grandfather, Astyages and formed the Persian Empire.-Mazares in Herodotus' Histories:...

 continued the conquest of Asia Minor but died of unknown causes during his campaign in Ionia. Cyrus sent Harpagus to complete Mazares's conquest of Asia Minor. Harpagus captured Lycia
Lycia
Lycia Lycian: Trm̃mis; ) was a region in Anatolia in what are now the provinces of Antalya and Muğla on the southern coast of Turkey. It was a federation of ancient cities in the region and later a province of the Roman Empire...

, Cilicia
Cilicia
In antiquity, Cilicia was the south coastal region of Asia Minor, south of the central Anatolian plateau. It existed as a political entity from Hittite times into the Byzantine empire...

 and Phoenicia
Phoenicia
Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

, using the technique of building earthworks to breach the walls of besieged cities, a method unknown to the Greeks. He ended his conquest of the area in 542 BC and returned to Persia.

Neo-Babylonian Empire


By the year 540 BC, Cyrus captured Elam
Elam
Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq...

 (Susiana) and its capital, Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

. The Nabonidus Chronicle records that, prior to the battle(s), Nabonidus had ordered cult statues from outlying Babylonian cities to be brought into the capital, suggesting that the conflict had begun possibly in the winter of 540 BC. Near the beginning of October, Cyrus fought the Battle of Opis
Battle of Opis
The Battle of Opis, fought in September 539 BC, was a major engagement between the armies of Persia under Cyrus the Great and the Neo-Babylonian Empire under Nabonidus during the Persian invasion of Mesopotamia. At the time, Babylonia was the last major power in western Asia that was not yet under...

 in or near the strategic riverside city of Opis
Opis
Opis was an ancient Babylonian city on the Tigris, not far from modern Baghdad. The precise location of Opis has not been established, but from the Akkadian and Greek texts, it was located on the east bank of the Tigris, near the Diyala River.-History:Opis is mentioned for the first time at the...

 on the Tigris, north of Babylon. The Babylonian army was routed, and on October 10, Sippar was seized without a battle, with little to no resistance from the populace. It is probable that Cyrus engaged in negotiations with the Babylonian generals to obtain a compromise on their part and therefore avoid an armed confrontation. Nabonidus was staying in the city at the time and soon fled to the capital, Babylon, which he had not visited in years.

Two days later, on October 7 (proleptic Gregorian calendar
Proleptic Gregorian calendar
The proleptic Gregorian calendar is produced by extending the Gregorian calendar backward to dates preceding its official introduction in 1582.-Usage:...

), Gubaru
Gubaru
Gobryas was a common name of several Persian noblemen. The English form Gobryas is derived from the Greek rendering of this name.- Gobryas :...

's troops entered Babylon, again without any resistance from the Babylonian armies, and detained Nabonidus. Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 explains that to accomplish this feat, the Persians, using a basin dug earlier by the Babylonian queen Nitokris to protect Babylon against Median attacks, diverted the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

 river into a canal so that the water level dropped "to the height of the middle of a man's thigh", which allowed the invading forces to march directly through the river bed to enter at night. On October 29, Cyrus himself entered the city of Babylon and detained Nabonidus.

Prior to Cyrus's invasion of Babylon, the Neo-Babylonian Empire
Neo-Babylonian Empire
The Neo-Babylonian Empire or Second Babylonian Empire was a period of Mesopotamian history which began in 626 BC and ended in 539 BC. During the preceding three centuries, Babylonia had been ruled by their fellow Akkadian speakers and northern neighbours, Assyria. Throughout that time Babylonia...

 had conquered many kingdoms. In addition to Babylonia itself, Cyrus probably incorporated its subnational entities into his Empire, including Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, Judea
Judea
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

, and Arabia Petraea
Tayma
Tayma is a large oasis with a long history of settlement, located in northwestern Saudi Arabia at the point where the trade route between Yathrib and Dumah begins to cross the Nefud desert...

, although there is no direct evidence of this fact.

After taking Babylon, Cyrus the Great proclaimed himself "king of Babylon, king of Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

 and Akkad
Akkad
The Akkadian Empire was an empire centered in the city of Akkad and its surrounding region in Mesopotamia....

, king of the four corners of the world" in the famous Cyrus cylinder
Cyrus cylinder
The Cyrus Cylinder is an ancient clay cylinder, now broken into several fragments, on which is written a declaration in Akkadian cuneiform script in the name of the Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great. It dates from the 6th century BC and was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia in 1879...

, an inscription deposited in the foundations of the Esagila
Esagila
The Ésagila, a Sumerian name signifying "É whose top is lofty", was a temple dedicated to Marduk, the protector god of Babylon...

 temple dedicated to the chief Babylonian god, Marduk. The text of the cylinder denounces Nabonidus as impious and portrays the victorious Cyrus pleasing the god Marduk. It describes how Cyrus had improved the lives of the citizens of Babylonia, repatriated displaced peoples and restored temples and cult sanctuaries. Although some have asserted that the cylinder represents a form of human rights charter, historians generally portray it in the context of a long-standing Mesopotamian tradition of new rulers beginning their reigns with declarations of reforms.

Cyrus the Great's dominions comprised the largest empire the world had ever seen. At the end of Cyrus's rule, the Achaemenid Empire stretched from Asia Minor
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 in the west to the northwestern areas of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 in the east.

Death


The details of Cyrus's death vary by account. The account of Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 from his Histories provides the second-longest detail, in which Cyrus met his fate in a fierce battle with the Massagetae
Massagetae
The Massageteans or Massagetaeans were an Iranian nomadic confederation in antiquity known primarily from the writings of Herodotus. Their name was probably akin to Thyssagetae.-Name:...

, a tribe from the southern deserts of Khwarezm
Khwarezm
Khwarezm, or Chorasmia, is a large oasis region on the Amu Darya river delta in western Central Asia, which borders to the north the Aral Sea, to the east the Kyzylkum desert, to the south the Karakum desert and to the west the Ustyurt Plateau...

 and Kyzyl Kum
Kyzyl Kum
The Kyzyl Kum , also called Qyzylqum, is the 11th largest desert in the world. Its name means Red Sand in Turkic languages. It is located in Central Asia in the doab between the rivers Amu Darya and Syr Darya, and is divided between Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan...

 in the southernmost portion of the steppe
Steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

 regions of modern-day Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

 and Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, following the advice of Croesus
Croesus
Croesus was the king of Lydia from 560 to 547 BC until his defeat by the Persians. The fall of Croesus made a profound impact on the Hellenes, providing a fixed point in their calendar. "By the fifth century at least," J.A.S...

 to attack them in their own territory. The Massagetae were related to the Scythians in their dress and mode of living; they fought on horseback and on foot. In order to acquire her realm, Cyrus first sent an offer of marriage to their ruler, Tomyris
Tomyris
Tomyris, from the Persian تهم‌رییش Tahm-Rayiš, was a queen who reigned over the Massagetae, an Iranic people of Central Asia east of the Caspian Sea, in approximately 530 BC.- History :...

, a proposal she rejected. He then commenced his attempt to take Massagetae territory by force, beginning by building bridges and towered war boats along his side of the river Jaxartes, or Syr Darya
Syr Darya
The Syr Darya , also transliterated Syrdarya or Sirdaryo, is a river in Central Asia, sometimes known as the Jaxartes or Yaxartes from its Ancient Greek name . The Greek name is derived from Old Persian, Yakhsha Arta , a reference to the color of the river's water...

, which separated them. Sending him a warning to cease his encroachment in which she stated she expected he would disregard anyway, Tomyris challenged him to meet her forces in honorable warfare, inviting him to a location in her country a day's march from the river, where their two armies would formally engage each other. He accepted her offer, but, learning that the Massagetae were unfamiliar with wine and its intoxicating effects, he set up and then left camp with plenty of it behind, taking his best soldiers with him and leaving the least capable ones. The general of Tomyris's army, who was also her son Spargapises
Spargapises
Spargapises was a Massagetae general and son of the rebellious Massagetae queen Tomyris. Most of what history recounts of him is based on Herodotus's The Histories. Spargapises is part of the Massagetae forces that battled against Cyrus the Great. Little is known of his life aside from his contact...

, and a third of the Massagetian troops killed the group Cyrus had left there and, finding the camp well stocked with food and the wine, unwittingly drank themselves into inebriation, diminishing their capability to defend themselves, when they were then overtaken by a surprise attack. They were successfully defeated, and, although he was taken prisoner, Spargapises committed suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 once he regained sobriety. Upon learning of what had transpired, Tomyris denounced Cyrus's tactics as underhanded and swore vengeance, leading a second wave of troops into battle herself. Cyrus the Great was ultimately killed, and his forces suffered massive casualties in what Herodotus referred to as the fiercest battle of his career and the ancient world. When it was over, Tomyris ordered the body of Cyrus brought to her, then decapitated him and dipped his head in a vessel of blood in a symbolic gesture of revenge for his bloodlust and the death of her son. However, some scholars question this version, mostly because Herodotus admits this event was one of many versions of Cyrus's death that he heard from a supposedly reliable source who told him no one was there to see the aftermath.

Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

, also recounts that Cyrus saw in his sleep the oldest son of Hystaspes (Darius I) with wings upon his shoulders, shadowing with the one wing Asia, and with the other wing Europe. Iranologist, Ilya Gershevitch
Ilya Gershevitch
Ilya Gershevitch was a noted Iranologist.Gershevitch was born to Russian parents fleeing from Germany to Switzerland at the outbreak of World War I....

 explains this statement by Herodotus and its connection with the four winged bas-relief figure of Cyrus the Great in the following way:
"Herodotus, therefore as I surmise, may have known of the close connection, between this type of winged figure, and the image of the Iranian majesty, which he associated with a dream prognosticating, the king's death, before his last, fatal campaign across the Oxus."


Ctesias
Ctesias
Ctesias of Cnidus was a Greek physician and historian from Cnidus in Caria. Ctesias, who lived in the 5th century BC, was physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, whom he accompanied in 401 BC on his expedition against his brother Cyrus the Younger....

, in his Persica, has the longest account, which says Cyrus met his death while putting down resistance from the Derbices
Derbices
Derbices or Derbikes were a small pocket of tribial people located at or around Hyrcania, which is an area located in the northern borders of the Iranian Plateau. Most of what history can recount of this tribe is from the writings of Ctesias. Led by their leader, Amoraeus, Derbices led a rebellion...

 infantry, aided by other Scythian archers and cavalry, plus Indians and their elephants. According to him, this event took place northeast of the headwaters of the Syr Darya. An alternative account from Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

's Cyropaedia contradicts the others, claiming that Cyrus died peaceably at his capital. The final version of Cyrus's death comes from Berossus
Berossus
Berossus was a Hellenistic-era Babylonian writer, a priest of Bel Marduk and astronomer writing in Greek, who was active at the beginning of the 3rd century BC...

, who only reports that Cyrus met his death while warring against the Dahae
Dahae
The Dahae , or Dahaeans were a confederacy of three Ancient Iranian tribes who lived in the region to the immediate east of the Caspian Sea. They spoke an Eastern Iranian language.-Records:...

 archers northwest of the headwaters of the Syr Darya.

Burial




Cyrus the Great' remains were interred in his capital city of Pasargadae
Pasargadae
Pasargadae , the capital of Cyrus the Great and also his last resting place, was a city in ancient Persia, and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.-History:...

, where today a limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 tomb (built around 540-530 BCE) still exists which many believe to be his. Both Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

 and Arrian
Arrian
Lucius Flavius Arrianus 'Xenophon , known in English as Arrian , and Arrian of Nicomedia, was a Roman historian, public servant, a military commander and a philosopher of the 2nd-century Roman period...

 give nearly equal descriptions of the tomb, based on the eyewitness report of Aristobulus of Cassandreia
Aristobulus of Cassandreia
For other use, see AristobulusAristobulus of Cassandreia , Greek historian, son of Aristobulus, probably a Phocian settled inCassandreia, accompanied Alexander the Great on his campaigns...

, who at the request of Alexander the Great visited the tomb two times. Though the city itself is now in ruins, the burial place of Cyrus the Great has remained largely intact; and the tomb has been partially restored to counter its natural deterioration over the years. According to Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

, his epitaph said,
Cuneiform evidence from Babylon proves that Cyrus died around December 530 BC, and that his son Cambyses II had become king. Cambyses continued his father's policy of expansion, and managed to capture Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 for the Empire, but soon died after only seven years of rule. He was succeeded either by Cyrus's other son Bardiya
Bardiya
Bardiya was a son of Cyrus the Great and the younger brother of Cambyses II, both Persian kings. There are sharply divided views on his life, he may have ruled the Achaemenid Empire for a few months in 522 BCE, or he may have been impersonated by a magus called Gaumata. -Name and sources:The...

 or an impostor posing as Bardiya, who became the sole ruler of Persia for seven months, until he was killed by Darius the Great
Darius I of Persia
Darius I , also known as Darius the Great, was the third king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire...

.

The translated ancient Roman and Greek accounts give a vivid description of the tomb both geometrically and aesthetically; The tomb's geometric shape has changed little over the years, still maintaining a large stone of quadrangular form at the base, followed by a pyramidal succession of smaller rectangular stones, until after a few slabs, the structure is curtailed by an edifice, with an arched roof composed of a pyramidal shaped stone, and a small opening or window on the side, where the slenderst man could barely squeeze through.

Within this edifice was a golden coffin
Coffin
A coffin is a funerary box used in the display and containment of dead people – either for burial or cremation.Contemporary North American English makes a distinction between "coffin", which is generally understood to denote a funerary box having six sides in plan view, and "casket", which...

, resting on a table with golden supports, inside of which the body of Cyrus the Great was interred. Upon his resting place, was a covering of tapestry and drapes made from the best available Babylonian materials, utilizing fine Median worksmanship; below his bed was a fine red carpet, covering the narrow rectangular area of his tomb. Translated Greek accounts describe the tomb as having been placed in the fertile Pasargadae gardens, surrounded by trees and ornamental shrubs, with a group of Achaemenian protectors called the "Magi", stationed nearby to protect the edifice from theft or damage.

Years later, in the ensuing chaos created by Alexander the Great's invasion of Persia and after the defeat of Darius III, Cyrus the Great's tomb was broken into and most of its luxuries were looted. When Alexander reached the tomb, he was horrified by the manner in which the tomb was treated, and questioned the Magi and put them to court. On some accounts, Alexander's decision to put the Magi on trial was more about his attempt to undermine their influence and his show of power in his newly conquered empire, than a concern for Cyrus's tomb. Regardless, Alexander the Great ordered Aristobulus to improve the tomb's condition and restore its interior. Despite his admiration for Cyrus the Great, and his attempts at renovation of his tomb, Alexander would eventually ransack Persepolis
Persepolis
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

, the opulent city that Cyrus had helped build, and order its burning in 330 B.C.

The edifice has survived the test of time, through invasions, internal divides, successive empires, regime changes and revolutions. The last prominent Persian figure to bring attention to the tomb was Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, Shah of Persia , ruled Iran from 16 September 1941 until his overthrow by the Iranian Revolution on 11 February 1979...

 (Shah of Iran) the last official monarch of Persia, during his celebrations of 2,500 years of monarchy. Just as Alexander the Great before him, the Shah of Iran wanted to appeal to Cyrus's legacy to legitimize his own rule by extension.

After the Iranian revolution
Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution refers to events involving the overthrow of Iran's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the...

, the tomb of Cyrus the Great survived the initial chaos and vandalism propagated by the Islamic revolutionary hardliners who equated Persian imperial historical artifacts with the late Shah of Iran. There are allegations of the tomb being in danger of damage from the construction of the Sivand Dam
Sivand Dam
Sivand Dam is a planned dam in Fars Province, Iran. Named after the nearby town of Sivand located northwest of Shiraz, it has become the center of worldwide concern due to the flooding it will cause in historical and archaeologically rich areas of Ancient Persia and possible harm it may cause to...

 on river Polvar (located in the province of Pars) and flooding, but there is no official acknowledgement of this claim. This has nonetheless, caused a petition to be drafted to the U.N. demanding protection of this historical entity. United Nations recognizes the tomb of Cyrus the Great and Pasargadae as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Legacy




The achievements of Cyrus the Great throughout antiquity is well reflected in the way he is remembered today. His own nation, the Iranians, have regarded him as "The Father", the very title that had been used during the time of Cyrus himself, by the many nations that he conquered, as according to Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

:
The Babylonians regarded him as "The Liberator". After his conquest of Babylon, followed Cyrus's help for the return of Jews; for this, Cyrus is addressed in the Jewish Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 as the "Lord's Messiah
Messiah
A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

". Glorified by Ezra, and by Isaiah, Cyrus is the one to whom "Yahweh
Yahweh
Yahweh is the name of God in the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jews and Christians.The word Yahweh is a modern scholarly convention for the Hebrew , transcribed into Roman letters as YHWH and known as the Tetragrammaton, for which the original pronunciation is unknown...

, the God of heaven" has given "all the Kingdoms of the earth".

Cyrus was distinguished equally as a statesman
Statesman
A statesman is usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term...

 and as a soldier. By pursuing a policy of generosity instead of repression, and by favoring local religions, he was able to make his newly conquered subjects into enthusiastic supporters. Due in part to the political infrastructure he created, the Achaemenid empire endured long after his death.

The rise of Persia under Cyrus's rule had a profound impact on the course of world history. Iranian philosophy
Iranian philosophy
Iranian philosophy or Persian philosophy can be traced back as far as to Old Iranian philosophical traditions and thoughts which originated in ancient Indo-Iranian roots and were considerably influenced by Zarathustra's teachings...

, literature
Persian literature
Persian literature spans two-and-a-half millennia, though much of the pre-Islamic material has been lost. Its sources have been within historical Persia including present-day Iran as well as regions of Central Asia where the Persian language has historically been the national language...

 and religion all played dominant roles in world events for the next millennia. Despite the Islamic conquest of Persia
Islamic conquest of Persia
The Muslim conquest of Persia led to the end of the Sassanid Empire in 644, the fall of Sassanid dynasty in 651 and the eventual decline of the Zoroastrian religion in Persia...

 in the 7th century CE by the Islamic Caliphate
Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

, Persia continued to exercise enormous influence in the Middle East during the Islamic Golden Age
Islamic Golden Age
During the Islamic Golden Age philosophers, scientists and engineers of the Islamic world contributed enormously to technology and culture, both by preserving earlier traditions and by adding their own inventions and innovations...

, and was particularly instrumental in the growth and expansion of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

.

Many of the Iranian dynasties following the Achaemenid empire and their kings saw themselves as the heirs to Cyrus the Great and have claimed to continue the line begun by Cyrus. However there are different opinions among scholars whether this is also the case for the Sassanid Dynasty.

Even today many consider Cyrus greater than Alexander in his accomplishment. In fact Alexander the Great was himself infatuated with and admired Cyrus the Great, from an early age reading Xenophon's Cyropaedia, which described Cyrus's heroism in battle and governance and his abilities as a king and a legislator. Alexander respected Cyrus to the point, that during his visit to Pasargadae, he paid significant homage to the memory of Cyrus the Great by ordering Aristobulus to decorate the interior of the sepulchral chamber of his tomb.

According to Professor Richard Nelson Frye
Richard Nelson Frye
Richard Nelson Frye is an American scholar of Iranic and Central Asian Studies, and Aga Khan Professor Emeritus of Iranian Studies at Harvard University...

:
On another account, Professor Patrick Hunt
Patrick Hunt
Patrick Hunt is an American archeologist and author.-Research:Dr. Patrick Hunt has directed the Stanford University Alpine Archaeology Project since 1994...

 states:

Religion and Philosophy




Although there is no doubt about the influence of Zarathushtra's teachings on Cyrus's acts and policies, so far there has not been a clear evidence indicating that Cyrus practiced a specific religion; however, his liberal and tolerant views towards other religions have made some scholars consider Cyrus a Zoroastrian king. The religious policies of Cyrus are well documented in Babylonian texts as well as Jewish sources and the historians accounts. Cyrus initiated a general policy that can be described as a policy of permitting religious freedom throughout his vast empire. He brought peace to the Babylonians and is said to have kept his army away from the temples and restored the statues of the Babylonian gods to their sanctuaries. Another example of his religion, as evidenced by the Cyrus cylinder (see below),

'û-mi-Ša-am ma- h ar iluBel ù iluNabu Š a a-ra-ku ume-ia li-ta-mu-ú lit-taŠ-ka-ru a-ma-a-ta du-un-ki-ia ù a-na iluMarduk beli-ia li-iq-bu-ú Ša mKu-ra-aŠ Šarri pa-li- hi-ka u mKa-am-bu-zi-ia mari- Šu' (Cylinder,Akkadian language line:35)


'pray daily before Bêl and Nabû for long life for me, and may they speak a gracious word for me and say to Marduk, my lord, "May Cyrus, the king who worships you, and Cambyses, his son,' (Cylinder,English Translation line:35)


His religious policy was his treatment of the Jews during their exile in Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed Jerusalem. The Jewish Bible's
Books of the Bible
The Books of the Bible are listed differently in the canons of Judaism and the Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Slavonic Orthodox, Georgian, Armenian Apostolic, Syriac and Ethiopian churches, although there is substantial overlap. A table comparing the canons of some of these traditions...

 Ketuvim
Ketuvim
Ketuvim or Kəṯûḇîm in actual Biblical Hebrew is the third and final section of the Tanak , after Torah and Nevi'im . In English translations of the Hebrew Bible, this section is usually entitled "Writings" or "Hagiographa"...

 ends in Second Chronicles with the decree of Cyrus, which returned the exiles to the Promised Land
Land of Israel
The Land of Israel is the Biblical name for the territory roughly corresponding to the area encompassed by the Southern Levant, also known as Canaan and Palestine, Promised Land and Holy Land. The belief that the area is a God-given homeland of the Jewish people is based on the narrative of the...

 from Babylon along with a commission to rebuild the temple.

'Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth hath Yahweh
Yahweh
Yahweh is the name of God in the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jews and Christians.The word Yahweh is a modern scholarly convention for the Hebrew , transcribed into Roman letters as YHWH and known as the Tetragrammaton, for which the original pronunciation is unknown...

, the God of heaven, given me; and He hath charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whosoever there is among you of all His people -- may Yahweh, his God, be with him -- let him go there.' (2 Chronicles 36:23)


This edict is also fully reproduced in the Book of Ezra
Book of Ezra
The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible. Originally combined with the Book of Nehemiah in a single book of Ezra-Nehemiah, the two became separated in the early centuries of the Christian era...

.

"In the first year of King Cyrus, Cyrus the king issued a decree: ‘Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the temple, the place where sacrifices are offered, be rebuilt and let its foundations be retained, its height being 60 cubits and its width 60 cubits; with three layers of huge stones and one layer of timbers. And let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. ‘Also let the gold and silver utensils of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be returned and brought to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; and you shall put them in the house of God.’ (Ezra 6:3-5)


As a result of Cyrus's policies, the Jews honored him as a dignified and righteous king. He is the only Gentile
Gentile
The term Gentile refers to non-Israelite peoples or nations in English translations of the Bible....

 to be designated as Messiah
Messiah
A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

, a divinely appointed leader, in the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 (Isaiah
Isaiah
Isaiah ; Greek: ', Ēsaïās ; "Yahu is salvation") was a prophet in the 8th-century BC Kingdom of Judah.Jews and Christians consider the Book of Isaiah a part of their Biblical canon; he is the first listed of the neviim akharonim, the later prophets. Many of the New Testament teachings of Jesus...

 45:1-6). Isaiah 45:13: "I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says Yahweh Almighty." As the text suggests, Cyrus did ultimately release the nation of Israel from its exile without compensation or tribute. Traditionally, the entire book of Isaiah is believed to pre-date the rule of Cyrus by about 120 years. These particular passages (Isaiah 40-55, often referred to as Deutero-Isaiah) are believed by most modern critical scholars to have been added by another author toward the end of the Babylonian exile (ca. 536 BC). Whereas Isaiah 1-39 (referred to as Proto-Isaiah) saw the destruction of Israel as imminent, and the restoration in the future, Deutero-Isaiah speaks of the destruction in the past (Isa 42:24-25), and the restoration as imminent (Isa 42:1-9). Notice, for example, the change in temporal perspective from (Isa 39:6-7), where the Babylonian Captivity is cast far in the future, to (Isa 43:14), where the Israelites are spoken of as already in Babylon.

Cyrus was praised in the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 ( and ) for the freeing of slaves, humanitarian equality and costly reparations he made. However, there was Jewish criticism of him after he was lied to by the Cuthites
Cuthites
The Cuthites were a people living in Samaria around 500 BC, and were to blame for the postponing of the 2nd temple, in the reign of Cyrus the Great...

, who wanted to halt the building of the Second Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

. They accused the Jews of conspiring to rebel, so Cyrus in turn stopped the construction, which would not be completed until 515 BC, during the reign of Darius I
Darius I of Persia
Darius I , also known as Darius the Great, was the third king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire...

.
According to the Bible it was King Artaxerxes
Artaxerxes I of Persia
Artaxerxes I was the sixth king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire from 465 BCE to 424 BCE. He was the son of Xerxes I of Persia and Amestris, daughter of Otanes.*Artaxerxes I was the sixth king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire from 465 BCE to 424 BCE. He was the son of Xerxes I of Persia and...

 who was convinced to stop the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. (Ezra 4:7-24)

Some contemporary Muslim scholars have suggested that the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

ic figure of Dhul-Qarnayn
Dhul-Qarnayn
Dhul-Qarnayn , literally "He of the Two Horns" or "He of the two centuries" is a figure mentioned in the Qur'an, the sacred scripture of Islam, where he is described as a great and righteous ruler who built a long wall that keeps Gog and Magog from attacking the people who he met on his journey...

 is Cyrus the Great. This theory was proposed by Sunni scholar Abul Kalam Azad and endorsed by Shi'a
Shi'a Islam
Shia Islam is the second largest denomination of Islam. The followers of Shia Islam are called Shi'ites or Shias. "Shia" is the short form of the historic phrase Shīʻatu ʻAlī , meaning "followers of Ali", "faction of Ali", or "party of Ali".Like other schools of thought in Islam, Shia Islam is...

 scholars Allameh Tabatabaei
Allameh Tabatabaei
Allameh Seyyed Muhammad Husayn Tabatabaei was one of the most prominent thinkers of philosophy and contemporary Shia Islam...

, in his Tafsir al-Mizan
Tafsir al-Mizan
Al-Mizan fi tafsiri'l-Qur'an, popularly known as Tafsir al-Mizan ,is a Shi'a Muslim tafsir written by Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Hussein Tabataba'i....

and Makarem Shirazi.


Politics and Management


Cyrus founded the empire as a multi-state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

 empire governed by four capital states; Pasargadae
Pasargadae
Pasargadae , the capital of Cyrus the Great and also his last resting place, was a city in ancient Persia, and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.-History:...

, Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

, Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

 and Ekbatana. He allowed a certain amount of regional autonomy in each state, in the form of a satrap
Satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

y system. A satrapy was an administrative unit, usually organized on a geographical basis. A 'satrap
Satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

' (governor) was the vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 king, who administered the region, a 'general' supervised military recruitment and ensured order, and a 'state secretary' kept the official records. The general and the state secretary reported directly to the satrap as well as the central government.
During his reign, Cyrus maintained control over a vast region of conquered kingdoms, achieved through retaining and expanding the satrapies. Further organization of newly conquered territories into provinces ruled by satraps, was continued by Cyrus's successor Darius the Great
Darius I of Persia
Darius I , also known as Darius the Great, was the third king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire...

. Cyrus's empire was based on tribute
Tribute
A tribute is wealth, often in kind, that one party gives to another as a sign of respect or, as was often the case in historical contexts, of submission or allegiance. Various ancient states, which could be called suzerains, exacted tribute from areas they had conquered or threatened to conquer...

 and conscripts
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 from the many parts of his realm.

Through his military savvy, Cyrus created an organized army including the Immortals
Persian Immortals
The "Immortals" was the name given by Herodotus to an elite force of soldiers who fought for the Achaemenid Empire. This force performed the dual roles of both Imperial Guard and standing army during the Persian Empire's expansion and during the Greco-Persian Wars...

 unit, consisting of 10,000 highly trained soldiers. He also formed an innovative postal system throughout the empire, based on several relay stations called Chapar Khaneh
Chapar Khaneh
"Chapar Khaneh" or "Chapar-Khaneh" is a term in Persian, meaning the "house of courier" as "Chapar" means "courier", referring to the postal service used during the Achaemenid era. The system was created by Cyrus the Great the founder of the Persian Empire and later developed by Darius the Great,...

.

Cyrus's conquests began a new era in the age of empire building, where a vast superstate
Superstate
A superstate is an agglomeration of nations and/or states, often linguistically and ethnically diverse, under a single political-administrative structure. This is distinct from the concept of superpower, although these are frequently seen together...

, comprising many dozens of countries, races, religions, and languages, were ruled under a single administration headed by a central government. This system lasted for centuries, and was retained both by the invading Seleucid dynasty
Seleucid dynasty
The Seleucid dynasty or the Seleucidae was a Greek Macedonian royal family, founded by Seleucus I Nicator , which ruled the Seleucid Kingdom centered in the Near East and regions of the Asian part of the earlier Achaemenid Persian Empire during the Hellenistic period.-History:Seleucus was an...

 during their control of Persia, and later Iranian dynasties including the Parthians
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

 and Sassanids
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

.

On December 10, 2003, in her acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

, Shirin Ebadi
Shirin Ebadi
Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer, a former judge and human rights activist and founder of Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran. On 10 October 2003, Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her significant and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights, especially women's,...

 evoked Cyrus, saying:
Cyrus has been known for his innovations in building projects; he further developed the technologies that he found in the conquered cultures and applied them in building the palaces of Pasargadae
Pasargadae
Pasargadae , the capital of Cyrus the Great and also his last resting place, was a city in ancient Persia, and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.-History:...

. He was also famous for his love of garden
Garden
A garden is a planned space, usually outdoors, set aside for the display, cultivation, and enjoyment of plants and other forms of nature. The garden can incorporate both natural and man-made materials. The most common form today is known as a residential garden, but the term garden has...

s; the recent excavations in his capital city has revealed the existence of the Pasargad Persian Garden and a network of irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

 canal
Canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

s. Pasargadae was place for two magnificent palaces surrounded by a majestic royal park
Park
A park is a protected area, in its natural or semi-natural state, or planted, and set aside for human recreation and enjoyment, or for the protection of wildlife or natural habitats. It may consist of rocks, soil, water, flora and fauna and grass areas. Many parks are legally protected by...

 and vast formal gardens; among them was the four-quartered wall gardens of "Paradisia
Paradise
Paradise is a place in which existence is positive, harmonious and timeless. It is conceptually a counter-image of the miseries of human civilization, and in paradise there is only peace, prosperity, and happiness. Paradise is a place of contentment, but it is not necessarily a land of luxury and...

" with over 1000 meters of channels made out of carved limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

, designed to fill small basins at every 16 meters and water various types of wild and domestic flora
Flora
Flora is the plant life occurring in a particular region or time, generally the naturally occurring or indigenous—native plant life. The corresponding term for animals is fauna.-Etymology:...

. The design and concept of Paradisia were exceptional and have been used as a model for many ancient and modern parks, ever since.

Cyrus's legacy has been felt even as far away as Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

 and colonial America. Many of the forefathers of the United States of America sought inspiration from Cyrus the Great through works such as Cyropaedia. Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

, for example, owned a copy.

Cyrus cylinder


One of the few surviving sources of information that can be dated directly to Cyrus's time is the Cyrus cylinder
Cyrus cylinder
The Cyrus Cylinder is an ancient clay cylinder, now broken into several fragments, on which is written a declaration in Akkadian cuneiform script in the name of the Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great. It dates from the 6th century BC and was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia in 1879...

, a document in the form of a clay cylinder inscribed in Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 cuneiform
Cuneiform script
Cuneiform script )) is one of the earliest known forms of written expression. Emerging in Sumer around the 30th century BC, with predecessors reaching into the late 4th millennium , cuneiform writing began as a system of pictographs...

. It had been placed in the foundations of the Esagila
Esagila
The Ésagila, a Sumerian name signifying "É whose top is lofty", was a temple dedicated to Marduk, the protector god of Babylon...

 (the temple of Marduk
Marduk
Marduk was the Babylonian name of a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon, who, when Babylon became the political center of the Euphrates valley in the time of Hammurabi , started to...

 in Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

) as a foundation deposit
Foundation deposit
Foundation deposits are ritual mudbrick lined pits or holes dug at specific points under Ancient Egyptian temples or tombs, which were filled with ceremonial objects, usually amulets, scarabs, food, or ritual miniature tools, and were supposed to prevent the building from falling into...

 following the Persian conquest in 539 BC. It was discovered in 1879 and is kept today in the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 in London.

The text of the cylinder denounces the deposed Babylonian king Nabonidus as impious and portrays Cyrus as pleasing to the chief god Marduk
Marduk
Marduk was the Babylonian name of a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon, who, when Babylon became the political center of the Euphrates valley in the time of Hammurabi , started to...

. It goes on to describe how Cyrus had improved the lives of the citizens of Babylonia, repatriated displaced peoples and restored temples and cult sanctuaries. Although not mentioned in the text, the repatriation of the Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 from their "Babylonian captivity
Babylonian captivity
The Babylonian captivity was the period in Jewish history during which the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylon—conventionally 587–538 BCE....

" was part of this policy.

The United Nations has declared the relic to be an "ancient declaration of human rights" since 1971, approved by then Secretary General Mr. Sithu U Thant. The British Museum describes the cylinder as "an instrument of ancient Mesopotamian propaganda" that "reflects a long tradition in Mesopotamia where, from as early as the third millennium BC, kings began their reigns with declarations of reforms." The cylinder emphasizes Cyrus's continuity with previous Babylonian rulers, asserting his virtue as a traditional Babylonian king while denigrating his predecessor.

In the 1970s the Shah of Iran
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, Shah of Persia , ruled Iran from 16 September 1941 until his overthrow by the Iranian Revolution on 11 February 1979...

 adopted it as a political symbol, using it "as a central image in his own propaganda celebrating 2500 years of Iranian monarchy." and asserting that it was "the first human rights charter in history". This view has been disputed by some as "rather anachronistic" and tendentious, as the modern concept of human rights would have been quite alien to Cyrus's contemporaries and is not mentioned by the cylinder. The cylinder has, nonetheless, become seen as part of Iran's cultural identity.

See also

  • Achaemenid architecture
    Achaemenid architecture
    Achaemenid Persian architecture refers to the architectural achievements of the Achaemenid Persians manifesting in construction of spectacular cities used for governance and inhabitation , temples made for worship and social gatherings , and mausoleums erected in honor of fallen kings...

  • Cyrus the Great in the Qur'an
    Cyrus the Great in the Qur'an
    Cyrus the Great in the Qur'an is a theory that holds that the character of Dhul-Qarnayn, mentioned in the Qur'an, is in fact Cyrus the Great. Dhul-Qarnayn is mentioned in the Qur'an. The story of Dhul-Qarnayn appears in sixteen verses of the Qur'an, specifically the 16 verses 18:83-98...

  • Greater Iran
    Greater Iran
    Greater Iran refers to the regions that have significant Iranian cultural influence. It roughly corresponds to the territory on the Iranian plateau and its bordering plains, stretching from Iraq, the Caucasus, and Turkey in the west to the Indus River in the east...

  • History of Iran
    History of Iran
    The history of Iran has been intertwined with the history of a larger historical region, comprising the area from the Danube River in the west to the Indus River and Jaxartes in the east and from the Caucasus, Caspian Sea, and Aral Sea in the north to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and Egypt...

  • Immortals (Persian Empire)

External links



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