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Cyrus the Great

king, ctesias, father, herodotus, persia and astyages

CYRUS THE GREAT, king of Persia: b. about 600; d. 529 a.c. The ancient original authorities for the facts of his life are Herodo tus and Ctesias, but their accounts are inter spersed with many highly colored legends. His lineage we have from a famous cuneiform cylinder prepared under his own authority. It is now in the British Museum. In it Cyrus establishes his royal claim through his father, Cambyses, back to Teispes, the son of Achmmenes and founder of Achannenian dynasty. The ancestral home was Anzan, supposed to be a district of Elam. It is, how ever, certain that Cyrus was a Persian. According to Herodotus he was the son of Cambyses, a distinguished Persian, and of Mandane, daughter of the Median king Asty ages. He founded the Persian monarchy. A short time before his birth the soothsayers at the court of Astyages divined from a dream of his that his future grandson was to de throne him. Upon this he gave orders that Cyrus should be destroyed immediately after his birth. For this purpose he was delivered to a herdsman, who, moved with compassion, brought him up, and named him Cyrus. His courage and spirit betrayed his descent to the king. The Magi having succeeded in quieting the uneasiness which the discovery occasioned him, he sent Cyrus to his parents in Persia, with marks of his favor. Whether this legend is true or not, it is certain that the beginning of Cyrus's career was the conquest of his father about 559 a.c. by which he became king of Media and Persia. In 546 he conquered Crcesus, the rich and powerful king of Lydia, and in 539 took Babylon, which did not offer much resistance, being torn by internal dis sensions. He also subdued Phoenicia and Palestine, to which he caused the Jews to re turn from the Babylonish captivity. While Asia, from the Hellespont to the Indies, was under his dominion, he engaged in a war against the Massagetm —a people of Scythia, northeast of the Caspian Sea, beyond the Araxes, then ruled by a queen named Tomyris. In the first battle he conquered by stratagem, but in the second was defeated, and was him self slain (529 B.c.). The stories related by

Xenophon in the (Cyrop.vdia) (professing to be an account of the life and character of Cyrus), that he received a splendid education at the court of Astyages, inherited his kingdom and ruled like a genuine philosopher, are mere romance, Xenophon's design being to represent the model of a king, without regard to histori cal truth, and in this way perhaps to exhibit to his countrymen the advantages of a mon archy. The chief points in which the account of Ctesias differs from that of Herodotus are that Ctesias does not make Cyrus any relation of Astyages, that after the conquest of Media Cyrus married Amytis, the daughter of Asty ages, and honored the latter as a father, and that he met his death in a battle with a nation called the Derbices, who were assisted by the Indians. Ctesias also mentions certain wars of Cyrus not related by Herodotus, and gives a somewhat different account of the war with Crcesus, king of Lydia. Within a few years Cyrus founded a mighty state, which proves that he must have been possessed of great gifts as a warrior and statesman. His nobility of character is shown by his treatment of the vanquished. He destroyed no town nor did he put the captive leaders to death. By the Persians his memory was cherished as uthe father of the people, by the Jews he was con sidered their liberator, and his greatness as a ruler and legislator was acknowledged by the Greeks. His claim to be styled Cyrus the Great, as history has known him, is amply justified and remains unchallenged. He built a city and palace in his native district, which was called after his tribe Pasargadz (now Murghab), and here his body was laid to rest. Consult Amiand, 'Cyrus, roi de Perse' (Paris 1887) ; Duncker, 'History of Antiquity' (Eng lish trans., London 1881) ; Geiger and Kuhn, 'Grundriss der iranischen Philogie' (Strass burg 1897) ; Homer, 'Daniel, Darius the Median, Cyrus the Great' (Pittsburgh 1901) ; Lessmann, 'Die Kyrossage in Europa' (Char lottenburg 1906).