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Cyrus The Great - کورش بزرگ

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“Ruling human beings does not belong among those tasks that are impossible ... if one does it with knowledge.... We know that Cyrus, at any rate, was willingly obeyed.”  As an exceptional ruler, Cyrus “was worthy of wonder, ... [and] excelled in ruling human beings.”   

(Xenophon, 4th c. B.C.)

The Achaemenid Persian Empire (550-330 B.C.) which ultimately ruled over 23 nations spread across approximately 3,000,000 square miles stretching from North Africa to Indus Valley was based on law and order.According to Herodotus, even the kings were not allowed to put a man to death for an offense.  An ideal Persian leader had to be intelligent, decisive, just, and guarantor of civil order. 

Cyrus II the Great (r. 559-530 B.C.), the founder of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, set the tone for its imperial grand strategy.  Tolerance, law, and order were how the Persians were to conquer and rule the known world.  Disruption of order by rebellions and lawlessness were challenges met by the Achaemenid kings through a well-trained, organized army and a centralized bureaucracy. 

Cyrus ascended the throne of Persia in 559 B.C., and as his predecessors, recognized the overlordship of the neighboring Iranian Medes.  During the first decade of his reign, Cyrus was interested in consolidating his authority over the Persian confederation and the sizeable Median Empire.  In 550 B.C., with support from many in the Median army and nobility, he defeated his unpopular grandfather the Median King Astyages, and captured their capital Ecbatana.

During the second decade of his reign, Cyrus consolidated all of Iran, as well as eastern lands such as Marv and Samarkand.  In 545, the fall of the powerful and wealthy Lydia to Cyrus sent a shockwave across the ancient world.  Cyrus then turned his attention to Babylon.  On October 10, 539, Cyrus attacked and defeated the Babylonian army stationed at Opis on the Tigris.  Susa fell next.  Sippar was taken without a fight.  Babylon was captured on October 12th, and ten days later Cyrus entered the city. 

According to Cyrus’s declaration known as the Cyrus Cylinder, the world’s first known bill of human civil rights, the people held in captivity by Babylonian kings were set free to return to their native lands.  Under this decree, the Jews also returned to their homeland and rebuilt their temple.  Unfortunately, soon thereafter his beloved wife Cassandane died, and Cyrus left for Persia to bury his queen.    

It is unclear what his military activities consisted of during the final stages of his reign, but he apparently conducted at least one great march to the eastern frontier before he was mortally wounded in 530 during his campaign against the Iranian nomadic Massagetae tribe.  His eldest son Cambyses II (r. 530-523 B.C.) succeeded him.

Cyrus the Great is considered one of the best conquerors and most admired leaders of all times.  He is the subject of many historical and political studies.  His life was studied and emulated by other “giants” in history such as Alexander and Caesar.  His partially fictional biography Cyropaedia by Xenophon was a mandatory read for certain degrees in European and early American universities.  Many of the Founding Fathers of America each had at least one copy of this biography.

According to the Father of Modern Political Science, Machiavelli, Cyrus was a notable prince because he became “great” based on personal ability not fortune.  He created an empire with difficulty, but kept it with ease based on his character and leadership.  In his book Power Ambition Glory, internationally-acclaimed American publisher and businessman Steve Forbes begins his parallels between great ancient leadership and today’s global lessons with Cyrus.

For Iranians, Cyrus is a byproduct of their ancient culture, heritage and upbringing.  They are proud to have presented such a man to world history.  Cyrus the Great is the embodiment of Iranian national identity, and his immortality ensures Iran’s future freedom, greatness and contribution to advancement of human civilization.

“Passerby, I am Cyrus, who gave the Persians an empire, and was king of Asia.  Grudge me not therefore this monument.”

(The inscription on Cyrus’s tomb by Strabo, 1st c. B.C.)

 

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Royal House Achaemenid

Coronation 
Anshan, Persis, Iran

Predecessor
Cambyses I

Successor
Cambyses II

Spouse
Cassandane of Persia

Issue
Cambyses II
Bardiya
Artystone
Atossa

Father Cambyses I
Mother Mandane of Media
Born
  600 BC ?
Birthplace
  Anshan, Persia (Iran)

Died December, 530 BC
Place of death Along the Syr Darya
Buried
Pasargadae

Reign  530 BC - 559 BC (30 years)

Cyrus The Great - کوروش بزرگ

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