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date: 18 January 2021

Cyrus(1)locked

, 'the Great', Persian king, d. 530 BCE
  • Pierre Briant

Extract

Cyrus the Great (OP Kuruš), son of *Cambyses I, who became c.557 bce king of the small kingdom of Anshan in *Persia. Beginning in 550 he fought extensive campaigns in which he conquered, respectively, *Media (550/49), *Sardis and *Lydia (546), *Babylonia, and the neo-Babylonian empire (539). At some point (before or after 539?) he conquered central Asia. He was thus the first Persian king to bring together territories into an imperial framework, to whose organization he contributed substantially. In general, the Greek (especially the Cyropaedia of *Xenophon (1)), Babylonian (‘Cyrus cylinder’), and Judaean sources (Ezra) present him as a conqueror welcomed by the local inhabitants. This apologetic tendency reflects both the expectations nourished by certain groups (e.g. the Jews later associated permission to rebuild the Jerusalem temple with Cyrus’ Babylonian conquest) and a policy continued by his successors: i.e. forging collaborative links with the local élites. This willingness to accommodate local conditions went hand-in-hand with tight control, as shown by the fact that land was confiscated to benefit the crown and Persian nobility. The royal administration also maintained a close watch over the fiscal obligations of the Babylonian sanctuaries. His achievement as founder of the empire was symbolized by the building of a royal residence in Persia, *Pasargadae, where his tomb was also constructed.

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