Cyrus the Great

Pasargadae Palace
This is what remains of the splendid capital city of Pasargadae (and the palace) of the reign of Cyrus the Great; photo credit OnTheOtherSide
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Cyrus the Great (c. 600 - 530 bce) was the real creator of the Ancient Persian Empire (Achaemenid dynasty). An extremely powerful leader. Cyrus was a great conqueror and led his armies in a series of campaigns over the years against the Medes, Lydia and Babylon, creating an empire that spanned the Near East and that has been considered the first "world" empire, spanning a distance of almost two thousand miles.

Cyrus was known as generous to those he conquered, as well as very tolerant. He showed respect for the religious beliefs of others, even those he had conquered. Rather than completely destroying the political structure of the lands he conquered, and rebuilding them from the ground up, he would leave intact their basic framework of government, their institutions and their customs. One of his main goals in conquering other nations was to bring peace to mankind.

His philosophy is evident from the writings on the Cyrus cylinder, which has been called the first Human Rights Charter by some scholars. The cylinder contains a decree/manifesto promulgated by Cyrus in 539 bce upon the Persian conquest of Babylon. You will evaluate for yourself the main features of the decree, but it is clear that the Cyrus decree had very practical implications for establishing Persian control of the newly-conquered Babylonian territory.

Cyrus the Great is known to history as a genius, diplomat, manager, and leader of men. He was respected not only by his own people, but by those he conquered. Persians called him “father,” The Greeks called him “Law-giver” and the Jews called him “The anointed of the Lord,” which means that he was blessed by God. (


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