|Cyrus the Great|
|King of Persia, King of Anshan, King of Media, King of Babylon, King of Sumer and Akkad, King of the four corners of the World|
|Reign:||559 BC-529 BC (30 years)|
|Consort:||Cassadane of Persia|
|Issue:||Cambyses II |
|Father:||Cambyses I of Persia|
|Mother:||Mandane of Media or Argoste (of Persia?)|
|Date Of Birth:||600 BC or 576 BC|
|Place Of Birth:||Anshan, Persis|
|Date Of Death:||August?, 530 BC or 529 BC|
|Place Of Death:||Along the Syr Darya|
|Place Of Burial:||Pasargadae|
Cyrus the Great (Old Persian: ,,  > Persian: کوروش بزرگ, ), (c. 600 BC or 576 August 530 BC or 529 BC), also known as Cyrus II of Persia and Cyrus the Elder, was a Persian Shāhanshāh (Emperor). He was the founder of the Persian Empire under the Achaemenid dynasty, an empire, perhaps the most wealthy and magnificent in history. The empire expanded under his rule, eventually conquering most of Southwest Asia and much of Central Asia, from Egypt and the Hellespont in the west to the Indus River in the east, to create the largest empire the world had yet seen.
During his twenty nine to thirty year reign, Cyrus fought and conquered some of the greatest states of his time, including the Median Empire, the Lydian Empire, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Either before or after Babylon, he led an expedition into central Asia, which resulted in major campaigns that brought "into subjection every nation without exception." Cyrus did not venture into Egypt, as he himself died in battle, fighting the Scythians along the Syr Darya in August 530 BC or 529BC. He was succeeded by his son, Cambyses II, who managed to conquer Egypt during his short rule.
Beyond his nation, Cyrus left a lasting legacy on Jewish religion (through his Edict of Restoration), human rights, politics, and military strategy, as well as on both Eastern and Western civilizations
See main article: Etymology of Cyrus. The word Cyrus is derived, via Latin, from Ancient Greek, from old Persian:' . The ancient historians Ctesias and Plutarch 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. However, some modern historians, such as Karl Hoffmann and Rüdiger Schmitt of the Encyclopædia Iranica, have suggested the translation "humiliator of the enemy in verbal contest."
In modern Persia, Cyrus is always referred to as and also as the Persian-derived name for Cyrus the Great. In the Bible, he is known as simply Koresh (Hebrew: כורש). He is also possibly mentioned in the Qur'an under the title "Dhul-Qarnayn" who conquered lands east and west.
Similar to other culture-heroes and founders of great empires, folk traditions abound regarding his family background. According to Herodotus, he was the grandson of the Median king Astyages and was brought up by humble herding folk. In another version, he was presented as the son of poor parents who worked in the Median court. These folk stories are however contradicted by his own testimony according to which he was preceded as king of Persia by his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
Out of the ten to fifteen Persian tribes, he was from the tribe of the Pasargadae, which was also the name for Persia's capital city which predated Cyrus. He was descended from one of its clans, the Achaemenidae. Before he united the Persians and Medes under a single empire, he was king of Persia and inherited the kingdom of Anshān (when Teispes of Anshan had conquered Anshān) from his other line of supposed kings. Which became one vassal kingdom under the Median Empire, in what is now the Fars Province in southwestern Iran. In this area Cyrus would later build his own city in Pasargadae.
The dynasty was supposedly founded by Achaemenes (c. 700 BC?), who was succeeded by his son Teispes. Inscriptions indicate that when the latter died, two of his sons shared the throne as Cyrus I of Anshan and Ariaramnes of Persia. They were succeeded by their respective sons, Cambyses I of Anshan and Arsames of Persia. However, the authenticity of these inscriptions has been called into question, thus blurring the history of Cyrus' predecessors.
Cambyses is considered by Herodotus to be of nobility but not a king, and further notes his marriage to Princess Māndānā, who was the daughter of Princess Aryenis of Lydia (or of another wife according to Christian Settipani) and Astyages, king of the Medes. From their union, Māndānā bore only one son, Cyrus II, better known today as Cyrus the Great, whom Cambyses named after the child's grandfather.
According to Ctesias, Cyrus the Great married a daughter of Astyages named Amytis, which seems unlikely, as his wife would also be his aunt (which according to Xenophon Māndānā had a brother named Cyaxares II). A possible explanation is that Astyages married again, and his second wife bore him this daughter. Cyrus' first wife, Cassandane, is equally obscure. According to Herodotus and the Behistun Inscription, she bore Cyrus at least two sons, Cambyses II and Smerdis. Both sons later separately ruled Persia for a short period of time. Cyrus also had several daughters, of which two, Artystone and Atossa, would marry Darius the Great. The latter is significant, as she gave birth to Xerxes I, Darius' successor.
The best known dates for the birth of Cyrus is either 600-599 BC or 575-576 BC. Little is known of his early years, as there are only a few sources known which detail that part of his life, and have been damaged or lost.
Herodotus's story of Cyrus' early life belongs to a genre of legends in which abandoned children of noble birth, such as Oedipus and Romulus and Remus, return to claim their royal positions. His overlord was his own grandfather, Astyages, ruler of the powerful Median kingdom.
After the birth of Cyrus, Astyages had a dream that his Magi interpreted as a sign that his grandson would eventually overthrow him. He then ordered his steward Harpagus to kill the infant. Harpagus, morally unable to kill a newborn, summoned the Mardian Mitradates (which the historian Nicolaus of Damascus 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 (who Herodotus calls Cyno in Greek, and Spaca-o in Median) took pity and raised the child as their own, passing off their recently stillborn infant as the murdered Cyrus.  For the origin of Cyrus's mother, Herodotus say's Mandane of Media and Ctesias insists she is full Persian but gives no name, while Nicolaus gives the name Argoste as Atradates' wife, whether this figure represents Cyno or Cambyses' unamed Persian queen has yet to be determined. Nicolaus also say's Cyrus was originally named Abradates by his step parents, therefore it's probable that when reuniting with his original family, in custom Cambyses names him (or had named him before the separation) "Cyrus" after his own father, who was the first Cyrus.
When Cyrus was ten years old, Herodotus claims that it was obvious that Cyrus was not a herdsman's son, stating that his behavior was too noble. Astyages interviewed the boy and noticed that they resembled each other. Astyages ordered Harpagus to explain what he had done with the baby, and after confessing that he had not killed the boy, the king 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' description may be a legend, it does give insight into the figures surrounding Cyrus the Great's early life.
Though his father died in 551 BC, Cyrus had succeeded the throne in 559 BC. However, Cyrus was not yet an independent ruler. Like his predecessors, Cyrus had to recognize Median overlordship. During Astyages' reign, the Median Empire may have ruled over the majority of the Ancient Near East, from the Lydian frontier in the west to the Parthians and Persians in the east.
In Herodotus' version, Harpagus, 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' policies. From the start of the revolt in summer 553 BC, with then his first battles taking place from early 552 BC, Harpagus with Cyrus led his armies against the Medes until the capture of Ecbatana in 549 BC, effectively conquering the Median Empire.
While Cyrus 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' relatives) were now under his command. His uncle Arsames, who had been the king of the city-state of Parsa 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 still was the nominal governor of Parsa, under Cyrus' authority - more of a Prince or a 'Grand Duke' than a King. His son, Hystaspes, who was also Cyrus' second cousin, was then made satrap of Parthia and Phrygia. Cyrus 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' sons.
Cyrus' conquest of Media was merely the start of his wars. Astyages had been allied with his brother-in-law Croesus of Lydia, (son of Alyattes II), Nabonidus of Babylon, and Amasis II of Egypt, who reportedly intended to join forces against Cyrus.
The exact dates of the Lydian conquest are unknown, but it must have taken place between Cyrus' overthrow of the Mede 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, but this position is currently not much held. The Lydians first attacked the Achaemenid Empire's city of Pteria in Cappadocia. Croesus besieged and captured the city enslaving its inhabitants. Meanwhile, The Persians invited the citizens of Ionia 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 was effectively a stalemate, with both sides suffering heavy casualties by nightfall. Croesus retreated to Sardis the following morning.
While in Sardis, Croesus sent out requests for his allies to send aid to Lydia. However, near the end of winter, before the allies could unite, Cyrus pushed the war into Lydian territory and besieged Croesus in his capital, Sardis. Shortly before the final Battle of Thymbra between the two rulers, Harpagus advised Cyrus to place his dromedaries 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 spared Croesus' life and kept him as an advisor, but this account conflicts with some translations of the contemporary Nabonidus Chronicle, which interpret that the king of Lydia was slain.
Before returning to the capital, a Lydian named Pactyes was entrusted by Cyrus to send Croesus' treasury to Persia. However, soon after Cyrus' departure, Pactyes hired mercenaries and caused an uprising in Sardis, revolting against the Persian satrap of Lydia, Tabalus. With recommendations from Croesus that he should turn the minds of the Lydian people to luxury, Cyrus sent Mazares, one of his commanders, to subdue the insurrection, but demanded that Pactyas be returned alive. Upon Mazares' arrival, Pactyas fled to Ionia, where he had hired more mercenaries. Mazares marched his troops into the Greek country and subdued the cities of Magnesia and Priene, where Pactyas was captured and sent back to Persia for punishment.
Mazares continued the conquest of Asia Minor, but died of unknown causes during his campaign in Ionia. Cyrus sent Harpagus to complete Mazares' conquest of Asia Minor. Harpagus captured Lycia, Cilicia and Phoenicia, 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.
See also: Battle of Opis.
In 539 BC, Cyrus captured Elam (Susiana) and its capital, Susa. Towards the end of September, Cyrus' armies, under the command of Gubaru, the governor of Gutium, attacked Opis on the river Tigris and defeated the Babylonian army.
On October 10, the city of 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 12 (Julian calendar; October 7 by the Gregorian calendar), Gubaru's troops entered Babylon, again without any resistance from the Babylonian armies. Herodotus explains that to accomplish this feat, the Persians diverted the Euphrates 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' invasion of Babylon, the Neo-Babylonian Empire had conquered many kingdoms. In addition to Babylonia itself, Cyrus incorporated its subnational entities into his Empire, including Syria and Judea.
After taking Babylon, Cyrus proclaimed himself "king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters of the world" in the famous Cyrus cylinder, an inscription deposited in the foundations of the Esagila temple dedicated to the chief Babylonian god Marduk. The text of the cylinder denounces Nabonidus as impious and portrays the victorious Cyrus as pleasing to Marduk. 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 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.
According to the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great, Cyrus' dominions must have comprised the largest empire the world had ever seen. At the end of Cyrus' rule, the Achaemenid Empire stretched from Asia Minor and Judah in the west to the Indus River in the east.
The details of Cyrus' death can vary by account. The account of Herodotus from his Histories provides the second longest detail, in which Cyrus met his fate in a fierce battle with the Massagetae, a tribe from the southern deserts of Kharesm and Kizilhoum in the southernmost portion of the steppe regions of modern-day Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, following the advice of Croesus 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, 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, 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, which was also her son Spargapises, and 1/3 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 once he regained sobriety. Upon learning of what had transpired, Tomyris denounced Cyrus' tactics as underhanded and swore vengeance, leading a second wave of troops into battle herself. Cyrus 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 when Herodotus admits this event was one of many versions of Cyrus' death that he heard from a supposedly reliable source which told no was there to see the aftermath. Nevertheless, others suggest the Persian troops may have later recovered the body after it was crucified which was also after his beheading, or that Tomyris beheaded and then crucified a man other than Cyrus, or Cyrus's double.
Ctesias, in his Persica, has the longest account which says Cyrus met his death while putting down resistance from the Derbices infantry, aided by other Scythian archers and cavalry, plus Indians and their elephants. According to him, this event took place north-east of the headwaters of the Syr Darya.
Cyrus' remains were supposedly interred in the city of Pasargadae, where today a tomb still exists which many believe to be his. Both Strabo and Arrian give nearly equal descriptions of the tomb, based on the eyewitness report of Aristobulus of Cassandreia, who at the instigation 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, his epitaph said,
Cuneiform evidence from Babylon proves that Cyrus died in August 530 BC, and that his son Cambyses II had become king. His younger son, Smerdis, died before Cambyses left to invade the eastern front. From Herodotus' account, Cambyses killed his brother to avoid a rebellion in his absence. Cambyses continued his father's policy of expansion, and managed to capture Egypt for the Empire, but soon died after only seven years of rule. An imposter named Gaumata, claiming to be Smerdis, became the sole ruler of Persia for seven months, until he was killed by Darius the Great.
Cyrus was praised in the Tanakh (Isaiah 45:1-6), though he was also criticized for believing the false report of the Cuthites, who wanted to halt the building of the Second Temple. They accused the Jews of conspiring to rebel, so Cyrus in turn stopped the construction of the temple, which would not be completed until 516BCE, during the reign of Darius the Great, the grandson of Queen Esther.
Such extraordinary achievements of Cyrus the Great, which exceeded all other leaders' throughout antiquity is well reflected in the way he is remembered today. His own nation, the Iranians, regarded him as "The Father", the Babylonians as "The Liberator", the Greeks as the "Law-Giver", and the Jews as the "Anointed of the Lord".
Cyrus was distinguished equally as a statesman 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 demise.
The rise of Persia under Cyrus's rule had a profound impact on the course of world history. Persian philosophy, literature and religion all played dominant roles in world events for the next millennia. Despite the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century CE by the Islamic Caliphate, Persia continued to exercise enormous influence in the Middle East during the Islamic Golden Age, and was particularly instrumental in the growth and expansion of Islam.
Many of the dynasties that followed the Achaemenids (Seleucid, Sassanid, Pahlavi) have claimed to continue the line begun by Cyrus. Mohammad Reza Shah celebrated the 2500th anniversary of the Iranian monarchy in 1971, though it ended with the 1979 revolution. Even today many consider him equal if not greater than Alexander the Great for his accomplishments.
According to Professor Richard Frye :
In short, the figure of Cyrus has survived throughout history as more than a great man who founded an empire. He became the epitome of the great qualities expected of a ruler in antiquity, and he assumed heroic features as a conqueror who was tolerant and magnanimous as well as brave and daring. His personality as seen by the Greeks influenced them and Alexander the Great, and, as the tradition was transmitted by the Romans, may be considered to influence our thinking even now. In the year 1971, Iran celebrated the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the monarchy by Cyrus.
One example of his religious policies, as evidenced by the Cyrus cylinder (see below), was his treatment of the Jews during their exile in Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed Jerusalem. The Jewish Bible Ketuvim ends in Second Chronicles with the decree of Cyrus, which returned the exiles to the Promised Land from Babylon along with a commission to rebuild the temple.
'Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD, 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--the LORD his God be with him--let him go up.' (2 Chronicles 36:23)This edict is also fully reproduced in the Book of Ezra.
“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)
However, at the time, there was also Jewish criticism of him after he was lied to by the Cuthites, who wanted to halt the building of the Second Temple. They accused the Jews of conspiring to rebel, so Cyrus in turn stopped the construction of the temple, which would not be completed until 516 BC, during the reign of Darius the Great.
Some contemporary Muslim scholars have suggested that the Qur'anic figure of Dhul-Qarnayn is Cyrus the Great. This theory was proposed by Sunni scholar Abul Kalam Azad and endorsed by Shi'a scholars Allameh Tabatabaei, in his Tafsir al-Mizan and Makarem Shirazi and Sunni scholar Abul Ala Maududi.
During his reign, Cyrus maintained control over a vast region of conquered kingdoms, achieved partly through retaining and expanding Median satrapies. Further organization of newly conquered territories into provinces ruled by vassal kings called satraps, was continued by Cyrus' successor Darius the Great. Cyrus' empire was based on tribute and conscripts from the many parts of his realm.
Cyrus' conquests began a new era in the age of empire building, where a vast superstate, 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 during their control of Persia, and later Iranian dynasties including the Persian Parthians and Sassanids.
Cyrus' legacy has been felt even as far away as Iceland 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, for example, had two personal copies of the book, "which was a mandatory read for statesmen alongside Machiavelli's The Prince."
See main article: Cyrus cylinder. One of the few surviving sources of information that can be dated directly to Cyrus's time is the Cyrus cylinder, a document issued by Cyrus the Great in the form of a clay cylinder inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform. The cylinder was created following the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC. The text of the cylinder denounces Nabonidus as impious and portrays the victorious Cyrus as pleasing to the chief god Marduk. 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.
The cylinder had been placed under the walls of Babylon as a foundation deposit. It was discovered in 1879 by the Assyro-British archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam in the foundations of the Esagila (i.e., the Marduk temple of Babylon) and is kept today in the British Museum in London. There have been reports of attempts by the directors of the British Museum and the National Museum of Iran in Tehran to arrange a loan of the Cyrus Cylinder to be temporarily displayed in the National Museum of Iran for a special exhibition.
According to the British Museum, the cylinder "reflects a long tradition in Mesopotamia where, from as early as the third millennium BC, kings began their reigns with declarations of reforms." It is composed in a form that matched long-standing Babylonian styles and themes. The cylinder is seen as an example of Cyrus seeking the loyalty of his new Babylonian subjects by stressing his legitimacy as king, and showing his respect for the religious and political traditions of Babylonia. It has been regarded for over a century as an instrument of ancient Mesopotamian propaganda.  In the early 1970s, the Shah of Iran adopted it as a symbol of his reign and celebrating 2,500 years of Iranian monarchy, asserting that it was "the first human rights charter in history" , The cylinder has also attracted attention in the context of the repatriation of the Jews to Jerusalem following their Babylonian captivity ; it has generally been viewed as corroboration of the Biblical account in the Book of Ezra (see: Ezra 1.1-6, 6.1-5; Isaiah 44.23-45.8; 2 Chronicles 36.22-23).
Iran Chamber Society
Queen of Persia, married to Darius I the Great.
Daughter of the Persian king Cyrus the Great.
Median general, 'kingmaker' of the Persian king Cyrus the Great.
Median general, 'kingmaker' of the Persian king Cyrus the Great.
Fifth and last king of the Mermnad dynasty.