Edited by: Shapour Suren-Pahlav


The Iranians regarded him as "The Father", Babylonian as "The Liberator", Hellenes as 'Law-Giver' and the Jews as 'The Anointed of the Lord'.



Cyrus the Great (580-529 BCE), a towering figure of history of mankind, was the first king in the world to be referred to as "The Great," was son of Cambyses the elder, the vessel Persian king of the Median Empire called Anšan and Mandana the Median princess, daughter of Astyages. His ancestors of the Achaemenid Dynasty for several generations had ruled the Persian kingdom of Anshan, in what is now Khuzestan province, in southwestern Iran.


In a cylinder inscription, the great emperor himself designates his ancestors in the throne of this vessel kingdom of Media. The founder of this dynasty was King Achaemenes (Haxamaneš) of Anšan (c. 700 BC) who was succeeded by his son Teispes (chišpeš) of Anšan. Inscriptions indicate that when the latter died, two of his sons shared the throne as Cyrus I of Anšan and Ariaramnes of Persia. They were succeeded by their respective sons Cambyses I of Anšan and Arsames of Persia.


His name "Cyrus" (a transliteration of the Greek Kυρoς) is the Greek version of the Persian Koroush or Khorvash meaning: "Like the sun" in Persian khour means "sun" and vash is a suffix of similarity.


According to the ancient Greek historians, in a dream Astyages was told that his grandson, the baby Cyrus would overthrow him, and to avoid this he ordered that the baby be killed. But the official delegated to do this gave the baby to a shepherd instead . When he was 10 years old, the deception was discovered by Astyages, but because of his outstanding qualities he was allowed to live in exile with his mother. But in 550 the prophecy came true, and Cyrus overthrew his grandfather.

Cyrus the Great founded the second Iranian dynasty, the Achaemenids, and first world Empire, by uniting the two original Iranian Tribes- the Medes and the Persians, after defeating his grandfather, Astyages sometimes between 559 BCEand 549 BC. He entered Ecbatana and, taking over the Median kingdom, began to build the first world empire.


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 annexed Drangiana, Arachosia, Margiana and Bactria to his territories. 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 Iranian nomadic tribes of Central Asia such as Scythians.


The victories to the east led him again to the west and sounded the hour for attack on Babylon, Lydia and Egypt. One of the Cyrus' objectives were to gain power over the Mediterranean coast, secure Asia Minor. Croesus of Lydia, Nabonidus of Babylonia, and Amasis II of Egypt, joined by Sparta, tried to build a strong alliance against him, but to no avail. He defeated and captured Croesus (546 BC), and Lydia became a satrapy under the Iranian government.


The Chaldaean empire of Babylonia annexed to his empire in 538 BC. Although he did not conquer Egypt, but he prepared the way for later Iranian victories there. Cyrus demanded the surrender of the Greek cities that had been under Lydia, and they also became satrapies of the Empire.


Prior to his death, he founded a new capital city at Pasargade in Pars province 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 world postal system.


The exact limits of Cyrus' eastern conquests are not known, but it is possible that they reached as far as the Peshawar region. He used Susa, Ecbatana, and Babylon as his capitals where he had built a splendid palace. Cyrus died in battle, but his empire was to reach its zenith long after his death and was buried at Pasargadae.


Cyrus's spectacular conquests triggered the age of Empire Building, as carried out by his successors as well as the Greeks and Romans in the following centuries.


Cyrus died in battle, but his empire was to reach its zenith long after his death. According to Herodotus, he was killed in July 529 BCE, during a campaign in the north-eastern part of his empire, with the Massagetae, an Iranian tribe from the southern deserts of Khwaresm, Kizilhoum in the southern most portion of the steppe region.


The queen of the Massagetae, Tomyris, prevailed after Cyrus previously defeated Tomyris's son Spargapises. The Massagetae were similar to the another Iranian nomadic group the Scythians in their dress and mode of living; they fought on horseback and on foot. At his death his son Cambyses succeeded him, despite the ambitions of another son, Smerdis.



Cyrus' Legacy:


Although Cyrus the Great was known to be a great conqueror, and a superb military commander, who founded the greatest empire the world has ever seen, but he is admired and lauded as a liberator rather than a conqueror. By pursuing a policy of generosity, instead of repression, his dedication to education, his cultural accomplishments, and by favoring the local customs and religions of each part of his vast empire.

When he conquered Babylon, declared the first Charter of Human Rights known to mankind. The Babylonians welcomed him as a liberator. He was much admired by the Jews, whom

he favored, placing them in power in Palestine, which the result was a rehabilitation of Israel. In 539 BCE he allowed more than 40,000 Jews to leave Babylon and return to Palestine. He was mentioned twenty-two times in the Old Testament—an evidence of his prominence. These steps were 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.


Cyrus had no thought of forcing conquered people into a single mould, and had the wisdom to leave unchanged the institution of each kingdom he attached to the Iranian Crown. So successful were his policies of conquest, mercifulness and assimilation that the empire continued to thrive for some 200 years after his death.

Cyrus was eulogized by many. His historical importance exploits, real and legendary, were used as moral instruction or a source of inspiration for political philosophies. The Greek author and soldier Xenophon believed him to be the ideal ruler, while the Bible praises his freeing of Jews who had been captured by the Babylonians.


The knowledge of the great king's upbringing, was an influential political treatise in ancient times, and again during the Renaissance. The English philosopher Sir Thomas Browne named his 1658 discourse after the benevolent ruler. Entitled The Garden of Cyrus, it may well be a Royalist criticism upon the autocratic rule of Cromwell.


Cyrus's name and his doctrine is still being cited and celebrated to this day. In 12th October 1971 Iran paid her homage to achievements of Cyrus, 2,500 years after his founding of the Persian Empire. In his speech, at the opening of the celebrations Shah of Iran said:

“We promise to preserve forever the traditions of humanism and goodwill, with which you founded the Persian Empire: traditions which made our people be the carrier of message transmitted everywhere, professing fraternity and truth.”


And in the 1994, a replica of a Bas-Relief, which depicts Cyrus the Great was erected in a Sydney park, Australia. The Bas-relief is a symbol for Multiculturalism, which expresses the coexistence and peaceful cohabitation of people from different cultures and backgrounds; and twenty-first century, in her accepting of 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, Shirin Ebadi said:

I am an Iranian. A descendant of Cyrus The Great. The very emperor who proclaimed at the pinnacle of power 2500 years ago that "... he would not reign over the people if they did not wish it." And [he] promised not to force any person to change his religion and faith and guaranteed freedom for all. The Charter of Cyrus The Great is one of the most important documents that should be studied in the history of human rights.