Cyrus the Great
Iranian portrait of Cyrus the Great (Iran)

Cyrus the Great
(c 585 BC - c 529 BC)

Persian Emperor

The Life of Cyrus the Great

Cyrus II was born around 588 BC. He was the son of Cambyses I (king of Anshan - modern Iran), and a Median princess, daughter of the king of the Medes, Astyages. He was the grandson of Cyrus I. He is the earliest king whose name was suffixed by "the Great".

The name comes from the Persian, Kurush (Kouros in Greek) which means "like the Sun". In the Christain and Jewish Bible he is mentioned as Koresh. In modern Persian Cyrus the Great is Kourosh-e Bozorg.

Cyrus overthrew Astyages in 550 BC. He took over the Median Kingdom, and began building an empire based on the Assyrian model. Cyrus had created the Persian Empire and founded the Achaemenian Dynasty.

By 546 BC, Cyrus conquered the Lydian Empire in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which was ruled by King Croesus. The latter was very wealthy and was king of the society that had invented coinage - it is from him that the phrase "as rich as Croesus" is derived.

In 538 BC the Chaldaean Empire of Babylon surrendered to Cyrus after the Battle of Opis. This empire included Syria and Palestine. In 586 BC, when the Babylonians had conquered Judea, they had deported the majority of the population to Babylon. In 537 BC Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Palestine. Their state, Israel, formed a buffer between Persia and Egypt.

After several campaigns in 530 BC, Cyrus conquered eastern Persia (modern Afghanistan) and incorporated it into his empire.

Cyrus issued a series of decrees which became known as the Charter of the Rights of Nations. This was the first declaration of Human Rights and is now displayed in the British Museum in London. There is a replica of the charter at the United Nations building in New York. Cyrus tried to live by the charter, often freeing slaves from conquered territories as well as allowing freedom of religion. The Jews called him "The Annointed of the Lord" after he ended their exile.

Charter of the Rights of Nations
The Cyrus Cylinder celebrating the Battle of Opis
and lists the Charter of the Rights of Nations

Cyrus was killed in a battle around 529 BC. He was fighting the Massagetae in Central Asia, east of the Caspian Sea.

He was succeeded by his son, Cambyses II, who defeated the Massagetae and recovered his father's body. It is now buried at Pasargadae, one of the capitals of the empire.

The tomb of Cyrus the Great at Pasargadae
The tomb of Cyrus the Great at Pasargadae

The Persian Empire survived for 200 years until it was conquered by the Macedonian king, Alexander the Great. Its administrative system (devised by Cyrus) of satrapies (provinces) influenced the later Greeks and Romans.

The Persian Empire
The Persian Empire under Cyrus The Great

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Books From and

KryssTal Related Pages

Inventions from the period that includes the period of the Persian Empire.

These are words found in English from Avistan, the ancient language of the Persian Empire.

Biography of one of the successors of Cyrus.

External Cyrus the Great Links

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Cyrus the Great
Biography of Cyrus the Great.