Cyrus the Great

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Cyrus the Great

(sī`rəs), d. 529 B.C., king of Persia, founder of the greatness of the AchaemenidsAchaemenids
, dynasty of ancient Persia. They were descended presumably from one Achaemenes, a minor ruler in a mountainous district of SW Iran. His successors, when Elam declined, spread their power westward.
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 and of the Persian Empire. According to Herodotus, he was the son of an Iranian noble, the elder Cambyses, and a Median princess, daughter of Astyages. Many historians, following other ancient writers (such as Ctesias), deny this genealogy, and the whole of Cyrus' life is encrusted with legend. Cyrus overthrew AstyagesAstyages
, fl. 6th cent. B.C., king of the Medes (584–c.550 B.C.), son and successor of Cyaxares. His rule was harsh, and he was unpopular. His daughter is alleged to have married the elder Cambyses and was said to be the mother of Cyrus the Great, who rebelled against
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, king of the Medes, sometime between 559 B.C. and 549 B.C. He entered EcbatanaEcbatana
, capital of ancient Media, later the summer residence of Achaemenid and Parthian kings, beautifully situated at the foot of Mt. Elvend and NE of Behistun. In 549 B.C. it was captured by Cyrus the Great.
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 and, taking over the Median kingdom, began to build a great empire after the Assyrian model. Cyrus' objectives were to gain power over the Mediterranean coast, secure Asia Minor, and civilize the east. Croesus of Lydia, Nabonidus of Babylonia, and Amasis II of Egypt, joined by Sparta, tried to build a strong alliance against him, but to no avail. He defeated and captured CroesusCroesus
, d. c.547 B.C., king of Lydia (560–c.547 B.C.), noted for his great wealth. He was the son of Alyattes. He continued his father's policy of conquering the Ionian cities of Asia Minor, but on the whole he was friendly to the Greeks, and he is supposed to have given
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 (546 B.C.), and Lydia became a satrapy under the Persian government. The Chaldaean empire of Babylonia fell to Cyrus in 538 B.C. He did not conquer Egypt, but he prepared the way for later Persian victories there. Cyrus demanded the surrender of the Greek cities that had been under Lydia, and they also became satrapies of Persia. Cyrus was much admired by the Jews, whom he favored, placing them in power in Palestine. His motive was probably to create a buffer state between Persia and Egypt, but the result was a rehabilitation of Israel. Cyrus was admired as a liberator rather than a conqueror, because he respected the customs and religions of each part of his vast empire. The exact limits of Cyrus' eastern conquests are not known, but it is possible that they reached as far as the Peshawar region. He used SusaSusa
, ancient city, capital of Elam. The site is 15 mi (23 km) SW of modern Dizful, Iran. It is the biblical Shushan, and its inhabitants were called Susanchites. From the 4th millennium B.C., Elam was under the cultural influence of Mesopotamia.
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, Ecbatana, and BabylonBabylon
, ancient city of Mesopotamia. One of the most important cities of the ancient Middle East, it was on the Euphrates River and was north of the cities that flourished in S Mesopotamia in the 3d millennium B.C.
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 as his capitals but was buried at PasargadaePasargadae
, capital of ancient Persia under Cyrus the Great. Its ruins lie 54 mi (87 km) by road NE of Persepolis, in present Iran. The buildings of Cyrus include a temple in the form of a tower; the remains of his palace; and his tomb, a structure of white stone 18 ft (5.
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, where he had built a splendid palace. At his death his son CambysesCambyses
, two kings of the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia.

Cambyses I was king (c.600 B.C.) of Ansham, ruling as a vassal of Media. According to Herodotus he married the daughter of the Median king Astyages; some scholars dispute this.
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 succeeded him, despite the ambitions of another son, SmerdisSmerdis
, d. c.528 B.C., second son of Cyrus the Great, king of Persia. He is also called Bardiya. He was assassinated by his brother Cambyses II, who kept the murder a secret.
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Cyrus (II) the Great


(Greek “Kyros,” ancient Persian “Kurush”). Year of birth unknown; died 530 B.C. King of ancient Persia from 558 to 530; came from the Achaemenid dynasty.

In 558, Cyrus became head of an alliance of Persian tribes that rose in revolt against Median rule in 553. He conquered Media in 550–549, Lydia and the Greek cities of Asia Minor in 546, a significant part of Central Asia between 545 and 539, and Babylonia in 539. Babylon became the site of one of the royal residences. In 530 he began a campaign against the Massagetae tribes in Central Asia but was defeated and killed. Cyrus II was depicted in many ancient Eastern and classical works of literature (the Cyropaedia of Xenophon, for example).


Prásek, J. V. “Kyros der Grosse.” Der alte Orient, vol. 13, fasc. 3. Leipzig, 1912.