In historical times, most of the successful human civilizations were ruled by Kings who governed expansive regions and received tribute from their subjects. One of the great kings of the old civilizations is Cyrus the Great who ruled Persia around 570BC. Persia was located in the Middle East and is the region presently known as Iran.
Cyrus the Great was the son of the Persian king Cambyses I and he became prince of the Achaemenian dynasty. He later took control of the kingdom and history records that Cyrus the Great was an important figure who made huge contributions to the human civilization through his reign.
The earliest city built by the people of Persia was the Achaemenian and this is the city that was established and later used as the capital of the vast Persian Empire established by Cyrus. This essay will provide a historically discussion of Cyrus the Great with emphasis being laid on his major achievements. These achievements will include his establishment of a great emperor and the mercy and consideration with which this great King ruled his subjects.
Cyrus took over the leadership of the Persian Tribes after the death of his father Anshan and he ruled as a vassal king for the Medians who controlled the region. Cyrus founded the Achaemenid Empire and even as a subordinate to the Medians, he had ambitions to gain power of the entire region.
The Achaemenian Dynasty was the first Empire of the world and Sorat asserts that this was the largest Empire of the old-Fashioned world and its length spanned from Anatolia from Egypt across western Asia to northern India and center Asia (1). The Achaemenian Empire eventually conquered Egypt and became the most dominate dynasty in the world.
When he took power from his Father, Cyrus was a subject of the Median Empire who lorded over the Persians. While his predecessors had been content to pay tribute to the Medians, Cyrus had greater ambitions. He therefore undertook a revolt that resulted in the defeat of the Medians and a new kingdom that combined the Median and Persians was established. Cyrus was the King of this new Empire but he chose to retain the title of “King of Persia”.
Despite having considerable territorial extent and duration, the Persian Empire did not have nearly as great an impact on history as did such longer-lived empires as the Roman, British, or Chinese empires. However, one should consider that the great accomplishments made by the Persians could never have been achieved without Cyrus’s influence.
A century before the rule of Cyrus no one would have suspected that within a century the entire ancient world would be under the rule of a previously obscure tribe from southwest Iran. In retrospective, historians can appreciate the fact that the rise of Persia into an Empire with worldwide reach could not be attributed to preexisting social or economic factors. It is highly unlikely that Persia would have risen to the great heights it did over time. Therefore, the great military ambitions of Cyrus actually altered the course of history.
Cyrus was an expansionist to the end and history records that he died in a campaign to defend and expand the Northeastern borders of his Empire. After his death while doing battle against the Massagetea, Cyrus was succeeded by his son Cambyses II whose rule was short.
Treatment of Subjects
While the military might of Cyrus was unquestionable, this king is best remembered for his extraordinary patience kindly attitude towards those he defeated. Cyrus had great respect for the local practices of the people he conquered and he sought to ensure that local customs were propagated.
When he defeated a province through military means, Cyrus appointed a governor to represent him there. However, he ensured that the management of each province was the responsibility of a satrap who was a local ruler. The satrap knew the cultural and religious views of the conquered and hence made sure that they were respected even as the people became subject to the Persians.
Cyrus in his mercy is also reputed to have abolished forced labor. This was especially the case after his conquest of Babylon which was well known for making slaves from the conquered people. When Babylon invaded and took over the Jewish land in 586, they forced the Jews to go to Babylon where they lived as captives. History records that after conquering Babylon, Cyrus gave the Jewish slaves permission to return to their homeland (Sorat 1).
This was after decades of living as captives in Babylon. If it was not for the mercy exhibited by Cyrus the Great, there is a high possibility that the Jewish people would never have returned to their homeland. While there were some obvious political motivations behind Cyrus’ mercy and generosity, it is undisputed that he was one of the most humane rulers of his time. Sorat notes that even among the Greeks who regarded Cyrus as a big threat to their independence, he was hailed as a great and just ruler and the people admired him.
For all his military ambitions, Cyrus did not have a liking for extreme brutality and cruelty which was the hallmark of other conquests of the time. For example, the Babylonians were renowned for slaughtering entire villages and the made a habit of taking people into exile to avoid rebellions rising against them by the conquered people.
Cyrus took a different approach and treated his subjects with dignity and mercy. Sorat notes that by engaging in a policy of generosity as opposed to repression which was common among many conquerors, Cyrus gained the respect and allegiance of the conquered subjects (1).
The legendary “cylinder of Cyrus the Great” which was discovered by archaeologies at a site in Babylon contains detailed accounts of how Cyrus treated his conquered subjects in a human manner and let them continue with their local customers as long as they paid him allegiance. Sorat declares that Cyrus the great was the most merciful ruler of his times (1). His Empire was characterized by showing charity to the conquered states which in turn made Cyrus’ kingdom greater.
Cyrus is a significant not merely because he won a lot of battles and conquered a lot of territory. Of greater importance is the fact that the empire he established permanently altered the political structure of the ancient world. By studying Cyrus the Great, his great contributions to human civilization can be seen His ethical ideals will go back in to 2500 years ago, and this is core of the main reasons why Cyrus the great is significantly historical and important.
Sorat, Cyrus. Cyrus the Great. 2006. Web. 26. Sept. 2011. http://www.cyrusthegreat.net/