What did Cyrus the great look like?

What did Cyrus the great look like?

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Some people think that ancient Iranians (unlike Iranians today) were white and had green/blue eyes and blonde hair.

I am myself an Iranian and I do not look white; I do not have blue/green eyes and do not have blond hair.

I was wondering if there is any evidence how Cyrus the great looked like and if he saw the Iranians of today, would he be surprised that the majority of Iranians do not share his eye/hair/skin color?

For Cyrus specifically, the closest to a contemporary image I could find is this bas-relief found at Pasargadae. I think the best we can really draw from it is that he most likely had a beard. There isn't really any other racially identifying characteristics, and its monochrome so you can't really guess at the hair or skin color that is being portrayed.

As for the ancient Iranians, our first record of them moving into their ancestral homeland is around 800 BC. At that point they likely physically resembled other early Indo-Europeans. The question is what that was.

It is surprisingly difficult to find references to studies of physical appearance outside of sketchy sites pushing racial agendas. What I did dig up tended to agree that skin and hair color appears to have undergone a surprising amount of selection pressure, meaning that these would be among the absolute first features to evolve to match what works best at the latitude a people are living. So skin color is actually about the worst thing to look at to ascertain relations between peoples.

The best I was able to dig up was this Science story. I could be misinterpreting, but it appears to be saying that the PIE people who moved into Europe carried multiple light-skin traits, one of which nearly disappeared in central Europe, but later came back into prominence amongst those that proceeded into northern Europe. The PIE people also appeared to have a tendency to be a bit taller.

Exactly how fast this process evolves I'm not sure. However, Cyrus was only about 2 centuries removed from the Iranian descent into their homeland, so I'd think it fairly likely he was a bit fairer than your typical human being living in the subtropics. But we really don't know.

Father of an Empire: How Cyrus the Great Founded the Achaemenid Empire & Changed History

Cyrus the Great (or Cyrus II) founded the Achaemenid Empire, and during his reign, Persia conquered much of Southwest and Central Asia and the Caucasus. By the time of his death in late 530 BC or early 529 BC, Cyrus had created the largest empire the world had yet seen at that point in history. His successors conquered territory as far as the Balkans in the west and the Indus Valley in the east.

Two Major Accomplishments of Cyrus the Great

The reputation of Cyrus the Great is due to two major accomplished tasks he had brought to reality:

  1. He changed the small country of Persia to a powerful empire in a vast territory. No other government had reached this level of authority in the world till then.
  2. His ethical values had made him a well-behaved emperor with humble policies and favorable method by which he treated the conquered nations.

The world was dominated by brutal arrogant rulers who didn’t care about their nations’ rights. In fact, they oppressed everyone with sheer rigidness to put awe in their hearts. Cyrus changed all such mannerism.

When the final years of Medes’ domination were accompanied by oppressing people and treating them unfairly, the level of injustice was so high and suppression so severe that Median people had no choice but to wait for someone to save them from their brutal ruler. Cyrus turned to be this savior character. When he came to power, the new situation couldn’t corrupt him and make another monster out of him. Instead, he won lots of hearts and gained many nations’ respect for his mannerism. Cyrus united Medes with Persians.

Dream Visions and Conflicting Chronicles

The Neo-Babylonian King Nabonidus, in his first year as ruler (around 556 or 555 BCE), states in his chronicle that he had a dream given to him by the god Marduk:

At the beginning of my lasting kingship they (the great gods) showed me a vision in a dream…. Marduk said to me, ‘The Umman-manda of whom thou speakest, he, his land, and the kings who go at his side, will not exist for much longer. At the beginning of the third year, Cyrus, king of Anshan, his youthful servant, will come forth. With his few forces he will rout the numerous forces of the Umman-manda. He will capture Astyages, the king of the Umman-manda, and will take him prisoner to his country.

Nabonidus had obviously received intelligence reports that Cyrus intended to rebel and declare independence from Astyages. Notice that in the inscription Nabonidus speaks of the Umman-manda as a burden to his own kingdom. However, on the flipside, his dreams were hope and fear of the unknown. Nabonidus was familiar with Astyages but Cyrus was still a mystery.

In Nabonidus seventh year, he had this to say about the conflict between Cyrus and Astyages:

[Astyages] mobilized [his army] and he marched against Cyrus, king of Anshan, to conquer…. the army rebelled against Astyages and he was taken prisoner. They handed him over to Cyrus […]. Cyrus marched toward Ecbatana, the royal city. Silver, gold, goods, property, […] which he seized as booty [from] Ecbatana, he conveyed to Ansan. The goods [and] property of the army of […].

This inscription paints a very different story than that of Herodotus. The difference is Astyages was the one who invaded Anshan to put down the rebellion, but in turn, his army rebelled and handed him over to Cyrus. However, this is not to say Herodotus is wrong. It is just the opposite as to what happened, since Herodotus says Cyrus invaded Media which is partially right—but only after the battle and imprisonment of Astyages did Cyrus march on Media to take the Umman-manda capital, Ecbatana.

Marduk and the Dragon Marduk, chief god of Babylon, with his thunderbolts destroys Tiamat the dragon of primeval chaos. Drawing from relief ( Public Domain )

One must not forget that this was not the end of the war. Even though Astyages was now a prisoner, there were still three more years of bloodshed in store which would not end until around 550 BCE.

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Legend of Cyrus the Great of Persia’s Childhood: Story of the Founder of the Persian Empire

Cyrus the Great was the founder of the most successful Persian Empire. The legend of his birth, however, is fascinating, and sets the stage for his ruling success.

Cyrus the Great of Persia became the first ruler of the Persian Empire, which he created upon taking down the Median Empire, Lydian Empire, and Babylonian Empire. Following is a summary of Cyrus’ early life and rise to command of the most powerful empire in the world at the time, according to Herodotus’ Histories.

Story of Cyrus’ Birth According to Herodotus

Cyrus the Great of Persia was born as the grandson of a Median king, named Astyages, likely around 600 BCE. Upon his birth, the king had a dream which was interpreted to him to mean that his grandson would overthrow him, so he ordered a subordinate, Harpagus, to kill the child. Harpagus was unable to fulfill this onus so he employed another, Mitradates, a shepherd to carry out the king’s request, telling him to leave the infant to die on a hillside.

Cyrus the Great’s Childhood

Mitradates could not kill the child either, and when his wife gave birth to a stillborn child at that same time, the shepherd brought the young Cyrus into their home, and placed their stillborn son on the mountain, where the young Cyrus was to be placed and left to die. King Astyages was satisfied that it was Cyrus who was left to die on the hillside. However, actual grandson of Astyages was indeed alive, according to Herodotus, and he was raised by the herdsman and his wife.

Cyrus the Great and King Astyages

Cyrus exhibited noble behavior even at a very young age, and people took not of the young man, thought to be a herdsman’s son, who behaved like a king. Astyages noticed that he and the boy seemed very similar, and questioned Harpagus, whom the king had ordered at first to kill the boy, asking him to explain what he had done with the baby Cyrus, and Harpagus confessed that he had not killed him, but given him to the shepherd Mitradates, telling the herdsman to leave the baby to die on the mountainside.

Infuriated that Harpagus had disobeyed him, Median King Astyages invited Harpagus to a dinner under friendly guise, and then revealed to Harpagus that what he had eaten was his own son upon the meal’s conclusion. The King had done this to illustrate the consequences of defying him. Cyrus, however, was allowed to live on.

Though there is much speculation that Herodotus’ account is exaggerated or only legendary, the Median King Astyages was indeed overthrown by Cyrus the Great of Persia, who conquered many others, and founded the mighty Persian Empire. His son in law Darius the Great lead the empire in later years, and Darius’ son, Xerxes I went on to engage the Greeks in the Greco-Persian Wars, and was victorious over the Greeks in the legendary battle at Thermopylae, off of which the movie 300 is based.

A man of mercy

The benevolent nature of Cyrus’s reign took many forms. He placated the formerly powerful Medes by involving them in government. He adopted habits of dress and ornamentation from the Elamites. Across his conquered lands, he returned images of gods that had been seized in battle and hoarded in Babylon. And in Babylon itself, he publicly worshipped the city’s revered Marduk.

Cyrus’s most renowned act of mercy was to free the captive Jews, whom Nebuchadrezzar II had forced into exile in Babylon. Cyrus allowed them to return to their promised land. The Jews praised the Persian emperor in scripture as a savior to whom God gave power over other kingdoms so that he would restore them to Jerusalem and allow them to rebuild their Temple.

The Startling Truth About One of History&rsquos Greatest Kings

E ven today, more than 2,500 years after his death, Cyrus the Great of ancient Persia remains one of humanity’s most brilliant and outstanding monarchs. There is much to learn and admire about King Cyrus, and no dearth of knowledge on this subject.

But the most interesting feature about this man and his towering accomplishments is also the most obscure. It is also profoundly inspiring.

Who Was Cyrus?

Cyrus ii ruled the Persian Empire from 559 to 530 b.c . The history of his life and accomplishments is well documented by Greek and Roman historians and by archaeological evidence. Among his many feats, Cyrus conquered the invincible Babylonian-Chaldean Empire and established Persia as the world power.

Under Cyrus, the borders of the Persian Empire rapidly expanded to create the largest empire humanity had ever seen. Under his leadership, ancient Persia’s borders stretched to Central Asia (Russia’s southern border today) as far east as the Indus River (the Pakistan-India border) as far north as the Danube, including Turkey, Crete and the southern parts of Greece and Bulgaria and as far south as Libya.

But Cyrus was much more than a prodigious conqueror. He heralded a new breed of leadership and politics. Unlike the Assyrians and others before him, he did not rule exclusively by sword and spear. Subjects were not beaten, tortured and killed into acquiescence and cooperation. In fact, many consider this king the world’s first true humanitarian.

“Cyrus was an outstanding soldier and statesman,” the Encyclopedia Britannica says. “He founded an empire that stretched from the Indus and Jazartes to the Aegean and the borders of Egypt and left behind him a reputation for justice and clemency …” (emphasis added). The Mainstream of Civilization says, “Cyrus created a new type of empire. Under the close supervision of his government, he permitted the conquered peoples to retain their own customs and religions and their own forms of government.”

For a world inured to cruel, forceful governance, King Cyrus’s disposition was revolutionary and much welcomed. His subjects tended not to revolt, hence the staying power of the Persian Empire.

The World’s Greatest City

In the time of Cyrus, Babylon was extraordinarily well fortified, teemed with top-notch Babylonian soldiers, and had a well-earned aura of impenetrability. It was the greatest city in the world.

Originally constructed by Nimrod soon after the Flood, the city had experienced a massive makeover by King Nebuchadnezzar ii in the late seventh and early sixth centuries b.c . Laden with materials and manpower plundered from neighbors, Nebuchadnezzar spared nothing in expanding, fortifying and beautifying his city. Babylon’s legendary hanging gardens, built for the queen who missed her lush, mountainous homeland in Media, were an engineering marvel, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Herodotus records that Babylon covered 196 square miles and was protected by an outer wall that was 311 feet high and 87 feet thick. The walls were so thick, even at the top, that chariots could be driven on them. Controlling access through this barrier were more than 100 bronze gateways.

The Euphrates River meandered through Babylon, much like the Thames through London. Inside the outer wall, the riverbanks “were lined and walled with brick. In the wall on either side of the river were 25 gates. There was a bridge 1,080 yards long and 30 feet broad across the river. At either end of this bridge was the royal palace. The more magnificent of these palaces was surrounded by three walls. The middle wall was 300 feet high, with towers 420 feet in height. The inner wall was yet higher. The two inner walls, Cterias tells us, were of colored brick. Upon them were portrayed hunting scenes—the chase of the leopard and the lion” (A Handbook of Ancient History in Bible Light).

Cyrus sought to do the impossible: to conquer this impenetrable fortress.

His strategy was brilliantly simple. First, he dug trenches upstream and diverted water from the Euphrates into a large reservoir. Once the water level had dropped, and under the cover of darkness, Persian soldiers slipped into the knee-deep water, marched up the riverbed, and snuck under Babylon’s giant gates.

Although the soldiers had infiltrated the outer gates, there were still brass and iron internal gates controlling access out of the riverbed and into the city. If they couldn’t get through the gates, the soggy riverbed would turn the Persians’ tactical advantage into a massive kill box. All the Babylonian soldiers had to do was rain spears and arrows down on them. In fact, if they could block the Persians’ retreat, the Babylonians could conceivably kill every last Persian soldier, to a man—like shooting fish in a barrel.

But strangely, on the night of the invasion, there were no soldiers, and the internal gates were wide open. King Nabonidus, his son Belshazzar, the imperial guard, the soldiers, and many of the people of Babylon were partying! Consumed with drinking and games, they had failed to close the gates and to station guards. Having quenched the Euphrates and penetrated the outer gates, the Persian soldiers were able to stroll through the internal gates, taking the city—including the shocked king—by surprise!

It was a magnificent victory, bordering on—and crossing into—the miraculous !

Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophon recorded the history-changing event. King Cyrus’s conquest of Babylon in 539 b.c . was one of his most notable accomplishments. By conquering this mighty city, he toppled the world-ruling Babylonian-Chaldean Empire.

Cyrus the Humanitarian

In 1879, British archaeologists digging in Iran discovered a barrel-shaped cylinder made out of clay. Inscribed on the cylinder in ancient cuneiform was a decree by King Cyrus of Persia. In the 40-line decree, the king recalled his defeat of Babylon and clearly outlined a number of policies designed to defend the rights of the conquered.

You can find this incredible artifact, called the Cyrus Cylinder, in the British Museum. This cylinder confirms the historical records showing that King Cyrus displayed a tremendous and heretofore unprecedented respect and tolerance for the peoples he conquered. The United Nations says the Cyrus Cylinder is the “world’s first charter of human rights” and is proof that King Cyrus was one of mankind’s first great humanitarians.

Cyrus’s governance really is remarkable. For a man with so much power, he displayed incredible tolerance and even respect for the religion, customs and politics of the people he conquered.

His greatest and most famous humanitarian act was releasing the captive Jews in Babylon and allowing them to return to Judea to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem. This decision by Cyrus is well known and well documented by Greek and Roman historians, as well as Josephus, the most recognized Jewish historian. Many believe the text on the Cyrus Cylinder alludes to the king’s decision to release the Jews.

King Cyrus issued his decree releasing the Jews in 538 b.c. , about a year after he conquered Babylon. Zerubbabel, a leading Jewish figure in Babylon at the time, became responsible for mustering the party and leading it back to Jerusalem. There, they set about rebuilding Solomon’s temple. One of the most astonishing features about this decree is that there was no cost or price to the Jews. In fact, the king of Persia actually financed the Jews’ return to their homeland, their reconstruction of the temple, and their reconstruction of Jerusalem!

Any historian will agree: Such magnanimity and benevolence from a man with supreme power is extremely rare! Cyrus the Great was truly an anomaly among world leaders.

Biblical History

All of this history is well documented by secular historians and archaeological evidence. But there is another source that records these events in detail: the Bible. In Ezra 1:1-4, for example, we read of Cyrus’s decree releasing the Jews to return to Jerusalem. These scriptures in Ezra were recorded a few decades after the event. More records about King Cyrus can be found in Jeremiah 25 and 2 Chronicles 36, both of which were written after Cyrus was on the scene.

A passage in Isaiah 44 also discusses Cyrus the Great—and this is where the history gets exciting.

Isaiah 44:24 reads: “Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things that stretcheth forth the heavens alone that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself.” Here God is establishing His supremacy, even over the daily affairs of mankind.

Isaiah continues: “[God] saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid” (verse 28). Isaiah is writing about how King Cyrus would be an instrument in God’s hands—“my shepherd”—and explaining how God would inspire Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.

The thought continues in Isaiah 45:1: “Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates and the gates shall not be shut.” Isaiah is saying that God would empower King Cyrus, even helping him “subdue nations” and make massive territorial goals.

The narrative becomes even more specific: “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron ” (verse 2). If you study this passage and Bible commentaries, you will easily see that these scriptures are specifically discussing King Cyrus’s conquest of Babylon. Notice, God says He will help Cyrus rupture the “gates of brass” and “bars of iron.”

Isaiah’s account is similar to the accounts in Ezra and 2 Chronicles. Except for one critical factor.

The book of Isaiah was written about 150 years before Cyrus the Great was born !

It’s true. King Cyrus, his rise to power, his defeat of Babylon, his humanitarian legacy, his name—even Babylon’s gates of iron and brass—were all prophesied by God about one and a half centuries before Cyrus’s birth!

Slow down and think about this. This is awesome proof of God’s existence and the veracity of the Holy Bible .

How do we know Isaiah was written before Cyrus was born? It’s not hard to prove. Isaiah 1:1 says: “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.”

This verse clearly says that Isaiah was alive and writing during the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Biblical history, as well as Jewish history and established historical record, clearly show that these all reigned in the eighth century b.c. This is nowhere disputed.

Bible commentaries agree that Isaiah was on the scene for about 50 years, roughly between 760 and 710 b.c . For example, Isaiah 38:3-8 show that he prophesied during the reign of King Hezekiah.

Critics of the Bible despise Isaiah 44 and 45. Over the last century or so, numerous theories have emerged to explain how this passage of scripture was written after King Cyrus. The most prominent theory says that the book of Isaiah has multiple authors, and that some parts of the book, mainly the latter chapters, were written at a different time and much later than the first part of the book. According to this theory, the book of Isaiah was compiled into a single book around 70 b.c .

But this theory has been proven false. A copy of the entire book of Isaiah was discovered as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls on which the text of Isaiah was discovered were dated to around 200 b.c ., proving that the entire book of Isaiah was completed well before 70 b.c. !

Consider too: Josephus recorded that King Cyrus actually read this prophecy about himself in the book of Isaiah ! If the prophecy in Isaiah 44-45 was written after Cyrus lived and by another author, how could King Cyrus have read about it himself?

Perhaps this explains why Cyrus was so benevolent and so enthusiastic about releasing the Jews. After reading Isaiah’s prophecy, he realized that he was predestined to make this wondrous decision!

But how did Cyrus gain access to Isaiah’s prophecy? We don’t know the specifics, but we do know that King Cyrus knew the Prophet Daniel well. Daniel was well versed in Isaiah’s prophecies and probably owned a copy of Isaiah’s text. Daniel lived in Babylon. After Cyrus took Babylon and toppled the Babylonian Empire, Daniel became a high-ranking official in Cyrus’s Medo-Persian Empire.

All Hail King Cyrus

Take some time to really think on this, and to study Isaiah 44 and 45. The evidence is irrefutable.

First, it is obvious that Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1-4 are talking about King Cyrus. He is mentioned by name !

Next, consider Cyrus’s relationship with Jerusalem. Isaiah 44:28 records Cyrus “even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” The temple in Jerusalem hadn’t even been destroyed— and here was God prophesying that it would be rebuilt !

Verse 28 also explains the origins of Cyrus’s humanitarianism. Cyrus treated all his conquered peoples much the same way as he treated the Jews. Cyrus didn’t just allow the Jews to practice their religion: He released them from captivity, loaded them up with wealth and treasures, gave them letters of endorsement, and sent them home to rebuild the temple and Jerusalem!

Surely this is one of the greatest humanitarian acts in history.

And to think, it was prophesied to happen 150 years before it actually did!

Isaiah 45:1 says Cyrus would “subdue nations before him.” Study the history books: Cyrus conquered more than 15 different peoples—all the way from Egypt in the south to Turkey to Central Asia to the Indus River.

Verse 1 also says God would “loose the loins of kings” before Cyrus. The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary states: “The loose outer robe of the [kings], when girt fast around the loins, was the emblem of strength and preparedness for action ungirt was indication of feebleness [and weakness].” This is a perfect description of Belshazzar the night of Babylon’s fall!

In addition, verse 1 says God would “open before him the two leaved gates and the gates shall not be shut.” The history of Babylon’s destruction shows that the king of Babylon left some of the internal gates of the city open that night! “In the revelry in Babylon on the night of its capture, the inner gates, leading from the streets to the river, were left open … which, had they been kept shut, would have hemmed the invading hosts in the bed of the river, where the Babylonians could have easily destroyed them. Also, the gates of the palace were left open, so that there was access to every part of the city” (ibid).

Look how specific God is—even prophesying the exact gates that would be left open in Babylon the night of its capture!

In verse 2, God says, “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron.” The strongest doors in Babylon were not able to withstand the army of Cyrus that night. Again, God prophesied the exact material that the gates of Babylon would be made of! Herodotus recorded that the gates of the inner walls were made of brass and some were reinforced with iron!

This is some of the most moving and powerful history you can study. Why? Because it proves the existence of God and the veracity of His Word!

God Reigns Supreme

Why would God prophesy the life and accomplishments of a Persian king 150 years before his birth? The answer to that question is the theme of Isaiah 44-46. In Isaiah 45:3, God says, “And I will give thee [Cyrus] the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel .”

God makes the purpose of this prophecy abundantly clear: The life and work of King Cyrus prove the existence of God !

Cyrus himself understood this. “Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah” (Ezra 1:2). This great king knew God existed, and he knew that God reigns supreme in the world of man.

The history of Cyrus the Great is interesting and inspiring—but it is also much more. This history proves the authority of the Holy Bible! It shows that this Book of books is true and accurate. It shows that it is authored by an omnipotent God who can prophesy what He will do and bring it to pass!

For anyone willing to study and prove it, this history shows that the Holy Bible is the true Word of God!

Here’s why Cyrus was so great

Author Reza Zarghamee said King Cyrus II of Persia was something of a soft touch with his conquered peoples, allowing local customs and religions to remain. (Photo by Hannah Monicken)

Liberating the Jews from Babylonian captivity and helping to rebuild Jerusalem means Cyrus II of Persia is a familiar figure in Jewish history.

But, in name recognition and contemporary cultural heft, he’s no Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar, despite being known as Cyrus the Great, said Reza Zarghamee, author of “Discovering Cyrus: The Persian Conqueror Astride the Ancient World.”

“Cyrus is the first and earliest of the three, but the least well-known. Why is it there is so little attention paid to this history?”

Zarghamee, who spoke to about 100 people on May 8 at the Biblical Archaeology Forum talk at the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, had answers to his own question.

First, he said, the ancient Persians were not consistent in writing down their history — instead, they relied on a robust oral tradition. Second, academia has long focused on Persia’s rivals, the Greek and Roman civilizations.

“There has always been a tendency in Western scholarship to identify with the Athenians,” he said.

Cyrus was born around 600 B.C.E. He inherited the throne of the city-state Ashan, and went on to conquer the Median, Lydian and Neo-Babylonian empires to create the Achaemenid Empire, also known as the First Persian Empire. It extended from modern day India in the east, down into northern Egypt and as far west as Greece.

Zarghamee called Cyrus’ the first “universal” empire. It operated as a global society and gave birth to principles like multiculturalism. Cyrus was something of a soft touch with his conquered peoples, allowing local customs and religions to remain. This made him popular among conquered peoples, Zarghamee said.

Cyrus the Great, in a recreation of a relief from Cyrus’ palace

“Cyrus pursued a new paradigm of statecraft,” he added. He was inclusive, pragmatic and kept his promises.

It was after conquering the Babylonian empire, that Cyrus crossed paths with the Jews. He freed them from their captivity in Babylonia and sent them back to Jerusalem with an edict to rebuild the temple.

And this fact was all that Gerry Ehrenstein, a longtime Biblical Archaeology Forum attendee, knew about Cyrus.

“But exactly what he did and how he did it was totally unknown to me,” he said. “It was a fascinating story.”

The society, which is predominantly Jewish, was formed about 30 years ago. It meets monthly at the Bender JCC.

There’s a sister group, Biblical Archaeology Society of Northern Virginia. Together, they provide scholarships to help send students to archaeological digs.

Cyrus died as befits a warrior king — in battle. His place in Jewish history is already secure, but Zarghamee hopes to bring him broader recognition.

What did Cyrus the great look like? - History

Cyrus the Great
by Charles F. Horne

Cyrus the Great was born around 580 BC in the land of Persia which is today the country of Iran. His father was King Cambyses I of Anshan. There isn't a lot of recorded history on the early life of Cyrus, but there is a legend told by the Greek historian Herodotus.

Legend of Cyrus' Youth

According to the legend, Cyrus was the grandson of the Median King Astyages. When Cyrus was born, Astyages had a dream that Cyrus would one day overthrow him. He ordered that the baby Cyrus should be left in the mountains to die. The baby, however, was rescued by some herding folk who raised him as their own.

When Cyrus turned ten, it became apparent that he was noble born. King Astyages heard of the child and realized that the boy had not died. He then allowed Cyrus to return home to his birth parents.

Around the age of twenty-one Cyrus took over the throne as king of Anshan. At this time Anshan was still a vassal state to the Median Empire. Cyrus led a revolt against the Median Empire and by 549 BC he had completely conquered Media. He now called himself the "King of Persia."

Cyrus continued to expand his empire. He conquered the Lydians to the west and then turned his eyes south to Mesopotamia and the Babylonian Empire. In 540 BC, after routing the Babylonian army, Cyrus marched into the city of Babylon and took control. He now ruled all of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Judea. His combined empire was the largest in the history of the world to that point.

Lands that were eventually united under Persian rule
Median Empire by William Robert Shepherd
(Click map to see larger picture)

Cyrus the Great saw himself as a liberator of people and not a conqueror. As long as his subjects didn't revolt and paid their taxes, he treated them equally regardless of religion or ethnic background. He agreed to let the people he conquered maintain their religion and local customs. This was a different way of ruling from previous empires such as the Babylonians and the Assyrians.

As part of his role as liberator, Cyrus let the Jews return home to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon. There were more than 40,000 Jewish people held in captivity in Babylon at the time. Because of this, he earned the name "the anointed of the Lord" from the Jewish people.

Cyrus died in 530 BC. He had ruled for 30 years. He was succeeded by his son Cambyses I. There are different accounts as to how Cyrus died. Some said he died in battle, while others said he died quietly in his capital city.

Arabs & Jews Agree — Cyrus is Great

The Arabs and the Jews have not agreed on very much since c. 2000 BC. The two sons of Father Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, have been fighting ever since Abraham chose Isaac, the father of the Jews, rather than his first son Ishmael, father of the Arabs, to inherit the Eretz, the Land. But they both agree that the ancient Persian King Cyrus was really GREAT. Why?

Arabic Iran was not until recently in 1953 called Iran. For most of its history Iran was called Persia. The tiny province of the ancient Pars tribe gave its name to the region.Cyrus the Great was a Persian. When at the age of c. 40, Cyrus conquered Babylon in 559 BC, he began his conquest of the world. As the Cyrus Cylinder says: “Cyrus…king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four corners of the world.”

Cyrus Cylinder in Akkadian cuneiform script, created c. 539 BC, British Museum

This very small Cylinder was found in 1879 by an expedition sponsored by the British Museum. It was placed as a “foundation deposit” at the base of a temple and was fashioned shortly after Cyrus—on his road to being The Great—conquered Babylon in c. 539 BC. Cyrus proceeded to conquer most of his world all the way to the Indus River on the border of India.

Extent of the Persian Empire (aka Achaemenid Empire) under Cyrus the Great

To the Persian/Iranian Arabs, Cyrus is the one who established the Persian Empire which they wish still existed. But from Cyrus’ time until the 20th century, dynasties continued to rule the Persian Empire even when it had dwindled down to just Iran itself.

Tomb of Cyrus the Great, built c. 559-29 BC

Even today Cyrus the Great is venerated in Iran. Below in 2016, about 2,500 years after Cyrus established the Persian Empire, tens of thousands of Iranian students and protestors rally in front of Cyrus’ Tomb with their demands (below). On October 29, 2018 Iranians marked the International Day of Cyrus the Great, that ancient ruler of the Persian empire whose legacy is credited with forging the Persian/Iranian national identity.The descendants of Ishmael, the Arabs and their blood brothers, the descendants of Isaac, the Jews, also believe Cyrus was GREAT. Why? Because when the Jews were taken captive to Babylon in c. 586 BC and lived there c. 70 years, it was Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Babylonians and allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem.

The Jewish scribe and priest Ezra (c. 480–440 BC) wrote the following account of Cyrus’ release of the Jews from their Babylonian Captivity and of Cyrus’ provisions for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem

Ezra 1:1-10 New International Version (NIV)

Ezra Reads the Law to the People — One of Gustave Dore’s wood engravings for the book La Grande Bible de Tours, an 1843 French translation of the Vulgate Bible

“In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25), the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’

Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god. Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. This was the inventory:

gold dishes 30
silver dishes 1,000
silver pans 29
10 gold bowls 30
matching silver bowls 410
other articles 1,000

In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along with the exiles when they came up from Babylon to Jerusalem.”

The Cyrus Cylinder, mentioned previously, contains an amazing historical confirmation of the Biblical narrative concerning Cyrus the Great: “All of their peoples I (Cyrus) gathered together and restored to their dwelling-places.”

Cyrus is mentioned 23 times in the Old Testament.

In 1971 the Iranians celebrated the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire by minting a coin (below) dedicated to Cyrus the Great and the current ruler, the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. On the reverse, notice the Cyrus Cylinder.To celebrate the opening in Jerusalem of the American embassy in 2018, legitimizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Israel minted a commemorative coin. That year, also, marked the 70th year of Israel’s state-hood. Cyrus had let the Jews go back to Jerusalem after 70 years in Captivity. And Donald Trump opened the American Embassy in Jerusalem 70 years after the Jews returned to their homeland after the Holocaust.

ABC News: “To celebrate U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem and Israel’s 70th anniversary, The Israeli Mikdash Educational Center has minted special edition gold and silver-plated coins with images of Donald Trump and Cyrus the Great, ancient Persian Emperor, as well as flags of the United States of America and old Persia.”—Article by Sandra Sweeny Silver

What did Cyrus the great look like? - History

Cyrus The Great Ruled the largest Empire of his day, and is known for granting many freedoms to his subjects. Over the centuries many kings and conquerors have been given the moniker, “The Great,” but some say that the figure who deserved this title the most was Cyrus the Great, the ancient King of Persia.

Even though he was born and ruled more than 2,500 years ago, many modern leaders today still claim Cyrus as their primary inspiration and hero. He was a brilliant military leader, but he is even more revered as a wise and tolerant ruler. Once Cyrus conquered a nation he allowed those other realms he absorbed to manage themselves and to keep their customs and religions. Cyrus was said to have respected the basic human rights of the common man more than any other ruler of his time.


According to historians, Cyrus was either born in 600 or 575 B.C. He lived in Persia, a location that, today, would be within the country of Iran. His father was Cambyses I, King of Anshan, and his grandfather was Cyrus I, ruler of Anshan before his father.

Cambyses I died in 551 B.C., making Cyrus the Great king in 559 B.C. Cyrus was between 25 and 40 years old. At the time, Cyrus’ power was divided between a number of other powerful states in the region, with the Median Empire holding a large amount of influence over Anshan. During this time, Cyrus was subservient to the Median King and was required to pay homage to him.

Becoming the King of Persia

With the help of a rogue Median general, Harpagus, Cyrus revolted against the entirety of the Median army and conquered them in 549 B.C. Upon his victory, Cyrus was able to combine Anshan with the newly defeated empire and crowned himself the King of Persia for the first time.

Defeating the Lydian Empire and Asia Minor

The dates of Cyrus’ Lydian conquest are unknown, but historians believe that it occurred sometime between his defeat of the Medians and his acquisition of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. The Lydian Empire and Asia Minor covered vast amounts of land, some of which extended into the modern-day areas of Greece and Macedonia. A number of notable battles took place throughout the campaign, including the Battle of Pteria, which resulted in a stalemate and left heavy casualties on both sides. After losing many men, the opposing ruler, Croesus, retreated to his capital city in Sardis. Cyrus followed him and besieged him capital at the capital, where he successfully defeated the enemy cavalry and captured the city at the battle of Thymbra. His empire continued to spread across the Middle East.

Neo-Babylonian Conquest

Cyrus the Great next acquired Neo-Babylonian Empire which encompassed a number of sub-nations, including Syria, Judea and lands within the Arab realms. The dates of his conquest of Babylon are somewhat disputed, but most agree that it was around 539 B.C. At this point, Cyrus proclaimed himself the King of Babylon, King of Sumer and King of Akkad.

The Achaemenid Empire

The Achaemenid Empire, sometimes called the First Persian Empire, was the collective name given to the various nations that Cyrus had conquered. At his death, it encompassed lands to the east by the Indus River valley and extended west to the fringes of Greece and Macedonia. Cyrus was killed in battle before he could conquer Egypt to the south, but Egypt eventually came under the rule of the Achaemenid Empire when his son conquered it after him. The name Achaemenid was taken from a legendary King of Persia who had lived about 200 years before the time of Cyrus. In adopting the name of Achaemenid, Cyrus the Great was laying claims to ancient titles and hearkening back to a time when his people were considered the mightiest people on the planet.

The Cyrus Cylinder

Among the most famous relics recovered from Cyrus the Great’s reign is the Cyrus Cylinder, which was kept in the temple of Marduk in Babylon. This is a 10-inch by 4-inch clay cylindrical object imprinted with information about Cyrus’ conquest in Babylon and is considered by some to be an early affirmation of human rights. The cylinder also included political edicts which improved the lives of Babylonian citizens and information regarding grants of freedom to a number of groups, including the Jews of Babylon, who had long been enslaved by the rulers of that realm.
There general population was quick to adopt the ways of Cyrus the Great as he also allowed for the practices of cults and other religious groups.

Death and Tomb

Cyrus the Great died in battle around 530 B.C and was succeeded by his son Cambyses II. He was buried in a pyramid-like tomb in Pasargadae, which is located in modern day Iran.