Cyrus the Great


It is not certain when Cyrus the Great was born but the most trusted accounts state it was around 580 B.C. Cyrus was a towering figure in the history of mankind. As the "father of the Iranian nation", he was the first world leader to be referred to as "The Great". Cyrus founded the first world empire - and the second Iranian dynastic empire, the Achaemenids - after defeating the Median dynasty and uniting the Medes with the other major Iranian tribe, the Persians. Although he was known to be a great conqueror, who at one point controlled one of the greatest Empires ever seen, he is best remembered for his unprecedented tolerance and magnanimous attitude towards those he defeated.

Upon his victory over the Medes, he founded a government for his new kingdom, incorporating both Median and Persian nobles as civilian officials. The conquest of Asia Minor completed, he led his armies to the eastern frontiers. Hyrcania and Parthia were already part of the Median Kingdom. Further east, he conquered Drangiana, Arachosia, Margiana and Bactria. After crossing the Oxus, he reached the Jaxartes, where he built fortified towns with the object of defending the farthest frontier of his kingdom against nomadic tribes of Central Asia.

The victories to the east led him again to the west and sounded the hour for attack on Babylon and Egypt. When he conquered Babylon, he did so to cheers from the Jewish Community, who welcomed him as a liberator - he allowed the Jews to return to the promised Land. He showed great forbearance and respect towards the religious beliefs and cultural traditions of other races. These qualities earned him the respect and homage of all the people over whom he ruled. 

The victory over Babylonia expressed all the facets of the policy of conciliation which Cyrus had followed until then. He presented himself not as a conqueror, but a liberator and the legitimate successor to the crown. He also declared the first Charter of Human Rights known to mankind. He took the title of "King of Babylon and King of the Land". Cyrus had no thought of forcing conquered people into a single mold, and had the wisdom to leave unchanged the institution of each kingdom he attached to the Persian Crown. In 539 BCE he allowed more than 40,000 Jews to leave Babylon and return to Palestine. This step was in line with his policy to bring peace to Mankind. A new wind was blowing from the east, carrying away the cries and humility of defeated and murdered victims, extinguishing the fires of sacked cities, and liberating nations from slavery. 

Though there are endless debates on whether Cyrus or Alexander was a better general, it is difficult to determine for certain. Cyrus was a better leader. Contrary to Alexander, he was not a bloodthirsty general. Cyrus never raped, pillaged, crucified, and executed mass numbers of people in the regions that he conquered. Alexander's was fortunate enough to conquer as much as he did in such a short time simply because he faced a Persian Empire plagued by the terrible leadership of Darius III. There is no disputing that Alexander was brave and a great master of the art of war, but we must not forget that he was extremely lucky to face such a weak major leader such as Darius III, who was neither brave, nor talented in the strategic/tactical side of warfare. With that said, though Alexander was a genius in battle and knew his enemy's weaknesses very well, Cyrus was a better leader and a better man because he was neither cruel, oppressive or bloodthirsty. Cyrus was upright, a great leader of men, generous and benevolent. The Hellenes, whom he conquered regarded him as 'Law-giver' and the Jews as 'the anointed of the Lord'. 

Prior to his death, he founded a new capital city at Pasargade in Fars. and had established a government for his Empire. He appointed a governor (satrap) to represent him in each province, however the administration, legislation, and cultural activities of each province was the responsibility of the Satraps. According to Xenophon Cyrus is also reputed to have devised the first postal system, (Achaemenide achievements). His doctrines were adopted by the future emperors of the Achaemenian dynasty. 

Cyrus's right to be called "The Great" can hardly be questioned, and not only because of his conquests were vastly larger than any before him anywhere on earth. The sudden emergence of Persia as the dominant power in the Near East is the most striking political fact of the entire 6th century B.C., while the conquest of Mesopotamia (Egypt was left for Cyrus's son Cambyses) marks the first time that a true Indo-European-speaking people had gained control of the old centers of civilization. Further, Cyrus's policy of generosity toward the conquered became standard Persian practice; among the imperial peoples of history, the Persians remain outstanding in their ready toleration of local customs and religions. There are indications that Alexander the Great admired Cyrus and even attempted many of his battlefield tactics. The most evident proof we have of his admiration to Cyrus is that, similar to Cyrus, when Alexander conquered  opposing territories, he would allow the subjugated to keep their traditions and therefore would keep them united and earn their respect and loyalty through admiration and fear. There can be no greater compliment. 



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