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Cyrus, The Great

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Cyrus, The Great
Taken from Wikipedia "Cyrus the Great"
600 BC or 576 BC-530 BC = 70 yrs or 46 yrs
This biography should not have been here, but because of one reference to it, it is given here.

Cyrus, commonly known as Cyrus, the Great, is the founder of Achaemenid Empire. He eventually conquered most of the South-East Asia, much of Central Asia, and the Caucasus. From Mediterranean to the West of the Indus River in the East. He created the largest Empire the world has yet to see. His regal titles were "The Great King", "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". His reign lasted between 29 and 31 years. He always respected the religion and customs of the conquered lands. Cyrus has played a crucial role in defining the national identity of modern Eeraan. His influence extended as far as till Athens. Cyrus left a lasting legacy on the Jewish religion 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". He is also well recognized for his achievements in human rights, politics, and military strategy.

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 (from Old Persian Haxaamanish). 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".

His Life
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. 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. After the birth of Cyrus the Great, 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, called a royal bandit herdsman from the mountainous region and ordered him to leave the baby to die in the mountains. Luckily, the herdsman and his wife took pity and raised the child as their own son, passing off their recently stillborn infant as the murdered Cyrus. Cyrus was originally named Agradates by his stepparents; therefore, it is probable that, when reuniting with his original family, Cyrus's father, Cambyses I, named him Cyrus after his grandfather, who was Cyrus I.

Herodotus claims that when Cyrus was ten years old, it became 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 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.

Cyrus as a King
Although his father died in 551 BC, Cyrus had already succeeded to the throne in 559 BC; however, Cyrus was not yet an independent ruler. From the start of the revolt in summer 553 BC, he fought his first battles from early 552 BC. While Cyrus the Great seems to have accepted the crown of Media, by 546 BC, he officially assumed the title "King of Persia" instead. After taking the Babylon, he proclaimed himself the King of Babylon. he brought many reforms there. At the end of Cyrus's rule, the Achaemenid Empire stretched from Asia Minor in the West to the North-Western areas of India in the East.

Death of Cyrus
The details of Cyrus's death 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 Khwarezm and Kyzyl Kum in the Southernmost portion of the steppe regions of modern-day Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. 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. Sending him a warning to stop his encroachment in which she stated she expected that 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 in the camp.

The general of Tomyris's army, Spargapises, who was also her son , 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 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's tactics as underhanded and swore vengeance, leading a second wave of troops into battle herself. Cyrus the Great was ultimately killed on that war, 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 she 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 that no one was there to see the aftermath.

Cyrus' remains were believed to be buried in his capital city of Pasargadae, where today a limestone tomb (built around 540-530 BC) still exists which many believe to be his. Though the city itself is now in ruins, but the burial place of Cyrus has remained largely intact; and the tomb has been partially restored to counter its natural deterioration over the years. The translated ancient Roman and Greek accounts give a vivid description of the tomb both geometrically and aesthetically; Within the edifice was a golden coffin, resting on a table with golden supports, inside of which the body of Cyrus was interred. Upon his resting place, was a covering of tapestry and drapes made from the best available Babylonian materials, utilizing fine Median workmanship. Below his bed was a fine red carpet, covering the narrow rectangular area of his tomb.  When Alexander invaded Persia and after the defeat of Darius III, Cyrus'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. Regardless, Alexander ordered Aristobulus to improve the tomb's condition and restore its interior.

Cyrus founded the empire as a multi-state empire governed by four capital states; Pasargadae, Babylon, Susa and Ekbatana. He allowed a certain amount of regional autonomy in each state, in the form of a Satrapy system. A satrapy was an administrative unit, usually organized on a geographical basis. A 'satrap' (governor) was the vassal 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. [Alexander also used the same system in India when he won its part]

He has been known for his love for buildings, gardens. The recent excavations in his capital city has revealed the existence of the Pasargad Persian Garden and a network of irrigation canals. Pasargadae was the place for two magnificent palaces surrounded by a majestic royal park and vast formal gardens; among them was the four-quartered wall gardens of "Paradisia" with over 1000 meters of channels made out of carved limestone, designed to fill small basins at every 16 meters and water various types of wild and domestic flora. The design and concept of Paradisia were exceptional and have been used as a model for many ancient and modern parks, ever since.

Sources of Information About Cyrus
One of the few surviving sources of information that can be dated directly to Cyrus's time is the Cyrus cylinder, a document in the form of a clay cylinder inscribed in Akkadian cuneiform. It had been placed in the foundations of the Esagila (the Temple of Marduk in Babylon) as a foundation deposit following the Persian conquest in 539 BC. It was discovered in 1879 and is kept today in the British Museum in London. The United Nations has declared the relic to be an "ancient declaration of human rights" since 1971 by U Thant.



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Created by Sushma Gupta On 5/27/04
Modified on 10/20/12