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Persia / Achaemenid Dynasty /
Cyrus 2 the Great
Persian: korosh or khorvash

Babylon Sardis Jerusalem

The Persian Empire in 529 BCE

Tomb of Cyrus 2 the Great at Parsagadae, Iran.
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Tomb of Cyrus 2 the Great at Parsagadae, Iran.

Cyrus 2 the Great's cylinder. British Museum, London, UK.
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Cyrus 2 the Great's cylinder. British Museum, London, UK.

(600?- 528 BCE) Persian king (550- 528 BCE) and part of the Achaemenid Dynasty. It is not known whether Cyrus was a title or a personal name.
Cyrus was undoubtedly a clever ruler and a great military leader. He appears also to have been a mild leader. Greek historians present him as a good ruler; generous, tolerant and, in many cases, benevolent. On the cylinder in the photo he has recorded the first declaration of human rights. In the Bible he is mentioned as the king that allowed the Jews living in Babylonia to return to Israel.
Cyrus chose to respect the culture and religion of the people he conquered. He also had several capitals; Ectabana, Pasargadae and Babylon, as his winter capital. As he conquered new lands, he did not call them Persia (or Anshan) or provinces of Persia, but he added them to the list of lands he ruled as a king.
Cyrus gave the different lands of the empire status as provinces, called satrapies. The satraps enjoyed great independence, and many of them had no other requirement than forwarding part of their collected tax income and contributing soldiers to the army.
Cyrus is often ranked as the first great king of Persia, and the one turned his inheritance, the kingdom of Anshan (corresponding to southwestern Iran), through his great conquests, into an empire.


600 BCE?: Born as son of King Cambyses 1, and according to legends, grandson of King Astyages of Media. Other suggestions to his birth year go as late as 580.
558: Cyrus becomes king over Anshan.
550: Leads a rebellion against the Medes and his alleged grandfather King Astyages, adding Media to his own kingdom.
— Becomes ruler over the Persian Empire.
546: Defeats Lydia and its king, Croesus after a surprise attack on the capital, Sardis.
539 October Takes control over the territories of the Babylonian Empire (including Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine), after defeating King Nabonidus at Otis. The victory is recorded on a cylinder (see photo) with cuneiform writing, which has survived into modern times.
530's: Leads several campaigns to the East, the lands that represent important parts of modern Iran.
530: Makes his son Cambyses 2 co-regent and embarks on a campaign against Queen Massangtae in the East.
528: Cyrus dies and is buried at Pasargadae.

By Tore Kjeilen