Cyrus the GreatCyrus the Great (about 599 BC - July, 529 BC) was a king of Persia, famous for his military prowess and mercy. He is considered to be the first significant king of Persia and the founder of the vast Persian Empire; he was however not the very first king of Persia, nor the first king of the Achaemenid Dynasty.
Herodotus and Ctesias relate that he was of humble origin; but in his cylinder inscription he designates his predecessors up to Teispes as kings of Anshan, which by some has been interpreted as Susiana, by others as the ancestral seat of the Achaemenidae. In 559 BC, upon the death of his father Cambyses, Cyrus became ruler of the kingdom of Anshan, in what is now southwestern Iran, but not as an independent ruler, being forced to recognize Median overlordship. However, in 550 he conquered the last of the Median kings, Astyages, captured Ecbatana, and in 546 assumed the title "king of Persia," thus gaining the Persians dominion over the Iranian plateau.
An alliance was formed against Cyrus by Croesus of Lydia, Nabonidus of Babylon, and Amasis II of Egypt; but before the allies could unite Cyrus had occupied Sardis, overthrown the Lydian kingdom, and taken Croesus prisoner (546 BC). In 538 Cyrus occupied Babylon. According to the Babylonian inscription this was in all probability a bloodless victory. From the list of countries subject to Persian rule given on the first tablet of the great Behistun Inscription of Darius, written before any new conquests could have been made except that of Egypt, the dominion of Cyrus must have comprised the largest empire the world had yet seen, stretching from Asia Minor and Palestine in the west to the Indus valley in the east.
Cyrus organized the empire into provincial administrations called satrapies. The satraps had considerable independence from the emperor, and from many parts of the realm Cyrus demanded no more than tribute and conscripts.
Cyrus issued a declaration, inscribed on a clay barrel known as Cyrus Charter of Human Rights. It was discovered in 1879 in Babylon and today is kept in the British Museum. Many historians have reviewed it as the first declaration of human rights.
According to Herodotus and Ctesias, Cyrus met his death in the year 529, while warring against tribes northeast of the headwaters of the Tigris. He was buried in the town of Pasargadae. Both Strabo and Arrian give descriptions of his tomb, based upon reports of men who saw it at the time of Alexander's invasion. The tomb northeast of Persepolis, which has been claimed as that of Cyrus, is evidently not his, as its location does not fit the reports.
Cyrus was distinguished no less as statesman than as a soldier. His statesmanship came out particularly in his treatments of newly conquered peoples. By pursuing a policy of generosity, instead of repression, and by favoring the local religion, he was able to make his new subjects his enthusiastic supporters. A good example of this policy is found in his treatment of the Jews in Babylon.
Cambyses the Elder
In the seventeenth century the English philosopher Sir Thomas Browne named his 1658 Discourse after the benevolent ruler. His title The Garden of Cyrus may well be a Royalist criticism upon the autocratic rule of Cromwell.