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Cyrus the Great Essay

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* Cyrus the Great, without a doubt, had huge impacts to not only world history but impacts that can still be seen today. Cyrus ruled over the first world empire while exercising leadership skills such as military strategy, politics and human rights. He showed respect for the customs and religions of the nations he conquered which was one of the key successes of his rule. Cyrus also had huge impacts to the religious society for his contributions to the Jews after the capture of Babylon.

Where and when was Cyrus the Great born? Were there any persons or events in his early life which you believe helped shape this individual’s legacy?
Cyrus the Great was born around 600-599BC in Media. In “Cyrus the Great” by Jacob Abbott it speaks about how Cyrus was ordered to be killed by the king for fear that he would take away his throne. This fear was caused by dreams that Cyrus’ grandfather, Astyages, had prior to the birth of Cyrus. Instead of Cyrus being murdered at birth, his death was concealed by slaves of Harpagus whom was the man ordered by the king to kill Cyrus. Harpagus’ herdsman Mitridates was sent for to take the baby out into the woods and left there to die. It happened to be that Mitridates had a wife named Spaco. Spaco had recently given birth to her own son, however their child died soon after birth. Spaco saw this as a chance to fill the void left by her dead son. While Mitridates disagreed at first for fear of what might happen he soon came to agree with his wife. Spaco decided that they would replace the regal clothing of the baby Cyrus with the clothing of their dead child. After that the dead child was left out in the wilderness where it would play the part of a deceased Cyrus. Harpagus soon sent a trusted man of his house to check on the baby Cyrus to ensure that the job was finished. This man believed the herdsman and the baby was buried, while Cyrus grew up with Mitridates and Spaco until he was 13 years of age. This gave Cyrus a very humble beginning. It didn’t last long however, through a series of events the king began to notice that Cyrus was of noble birth. However, instead of finishing what he had planned for Cyrus at his birth he rejoiced in finding that Cyrus was alive because of the shame he felt for believing he had killed his daughter’s child. Cyrus was then sent to live with his mother and father in Persia.
Describe his educational background and religious/political leanings and affiliations. Did this belief system evolve or change during his/her lifetime? If so, how and why?
When Cyrus was received by his birth parents they were overjoyed to be reunited with their son. Right away they made plans for Cyrus to receive the best education possible. Education in Cyrus’ time was not what we would consider education in our time. According to “Cyrus the Great”, by Jacob Abbott “The only intellectual instruction which they seem to have received was what was called learning justice.”1 Justice learning was the teaching of morals, right and wrong, good and bad, injunctions and prohibitions of the laws and settling disputes between men. In the book “Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership”, it mentions the men in the court calling Cyrus the “Well of Knowledge” this was because of his striving to learn all that he could about the world.
“The Cyrus Cylinder” mentions Cyrus speaking of worshipping Marduk, ancient god of Mesopotamia and patron deity of Babylon. Cyrus also believed according to “The Cyrus Cylinder” that Marduk was seeking an upright king and chose Cyrus to be that king. The Hebrew Old Testament of the Bible also states in Isaiah 45:1 “Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held, to subdue nations before him; and loose the armor of kings”.
Did this person have a “cause”? If so, what was it and how successful was he/she in pursuing it. What obstacles were overcome? Who were this person’s allies and enemies in pursuit of this cause? Give historical examples.
As a young man Cyrus “begun to daydream about winning a universal empire” 2however he had many obstacles to face. The first was his grandfather, Astyages, and taking over Media. Cyrus accomplished this with the help of Harpagus, who was an officer of Astyages’ court. Harpagus turned against Astyages for previous heinous acts against him and rallied the armies to join Cyrus against the king. Doing this was not simple. Harpagus was in Media and Cyrus in Persia. Astyages was still very cautious when it came to his grandson and had many spies that kept watch over any dealing someone from his court may have with him. Knowing this Harpagus came up with an ingenious plan to inform Cyrus of his plans and working to take over Media and deliver the throne to Cyrus. In “Cyrus the Great” by Jacob Abbott it explains how Harpagus was able to get this information to Cyrus: “He wrote a letter to Cyrus, and then taking a hare, which some of his huntsmen had caught for him, he opened the body and concealed the letter within. He then sewed up the skin again in the most careful manner, so that no signs of the incision should remain. He delivered this hare, together with some nets and other hunting apparatus, to certain trustworthy servants, on whom he thought he could rely, charging them to deliver the hare into Cyrus's own hands, and to say that it came from Harpagus, and that it was the request of Harpagus that Cyrus should open it himself and alone. Harpagus concluded that this mode of making the communication was safe; for, in case the persons to whom the hare was intrusted were to be seen by any of the spies or other persons employed by Astyages on the frontiers, they would consider them as hunters returning from the chase with their game, and would never think of examining the body of a hare, in the hands of such a party, in search after a clandestine correspondence.”1
Following the takeover of Media, Cyrus’ next obstacle was Croesus king of Lydia. Croesus believed that Cyrus would bring his armies across the Halys river and conquer Lydia. Croesus was also the brother in-law of the former king of Media, Cyrus grandfather Astyages. These reasons made Croesus believe that he must attack Cyrus to not only save himself but also to defend Astyages throne. Croesus at the time was seeking the counsel of the oracle of Delphi, whom out of all the oracles he found favor. The oracle told Croesus that a great empire would fall if he was to go to war with Cyrus. Croesus thought this was a good sign and that the oracle was referring to the fall of Cyrus’ empire. Croesus then decided to undertake the task of calling allies and building a great army to combat Cyrus. After crossing the Halys and fighting back the forces of Cyrus army Croesus came upon Pteria where a large battle commenced between the two forces. The battle went on all day without a victor and when the sun went down and it became dark both armies retreated and withdrew from the battle field. Croesus believed that after the battle Cyrus went back to Media. However Cyrus laid in the wait until Croesus sent away a portion of his army. When they had left Cyrus was able to come out and lay siege to the city. Cyrus led a fourteen day siege against Sardis without success. After finding a way in by using a rock path Cyrus was able to enter the city of Sardis and subdue Croesus.1 After that Cyrus swept into Anatolia and took control of Lydia. He then had his generals subdue the Greek cities along the coast of Anatolia, gaining the ports on the Mediterranean. Before Croesus was executed he called out “Oh Solon! Solon! Solon!”. This made Cyrus curious as to what he meant. Croesus spoke about his interview with a philosopher named Solon and how Solon taught that no one could decide whether a man was truly prosperous and happy till it was determined how his life was to end.1 Cyrus enjoyed their conversation so much that he made Croesus his friend instead of executing him.
Following Lydia, Cyrus went on to conquer Babylon. “The Nabonidus Chronicle” mentions, “The sixteenth day, Gobryas [litt: Ugbaru], the governor of Gutium, and the army of Cyrus entered Babylon without battle. Afterwards, Nabonidus was arrested in Babylon when he returned there.” According to Herodotus in “Cyrus the Great” by Jacob Abbott it explains just how this was possible. Herodotus explains how Belshazzar the king of Babylon was aware of Cyrus’ approach on the city. Instead of fighting Belshazzar closed up the gates of the city and withdrew the walls. He posted sentinels on the walls and believed that he was perfectly safe. Understandable since no weapons at the time could get through the thick walls, and the walls of Babylon were too high to be scaled. Belshazzar believed that he could rest easy, and he did. In fact partook in festivities on the night Babylon was captured. In order to capture the city Cyrus came up with a plan to divert the Euphrates so that where the river issues forth from the city would become shallow enough for his soldiers to walk in. Herodotus, Book I, para 191 says this: “Hereupon the Persians who had been left for the purpose at Babylon by the, river-side, entered the stream, which had now sunk so as to reach about midway up a man's thigh, and thus got into the town.” By the time Belshazzar learned of what had happened all of Babylon was controlled by the Persian army.
What was his impact or place in regional or world history?
After subduing multiple Greek cities Cyrus allowed the Greeks to go on living as they had, practicing their customs. This allowed the spread of Greek culture to continue to spread farther east.5 On “The Cyrus Cylinder”, Cyrus mentioned that he was a “harbinger of peace”.3 He fulfilled these words when he conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to go back to their home and rebuild their temple. Cyrus not only assisted the Jews and Greeks in his campaigns however, he also showed the same fairness and justness to other religions and peoples in the kingdoms he conquered. “His conquest resulted not in slavery and slaughter but the union of the Iranian peoples.”5

[ 1 ]. Cyrus the Great by: Jacob Abbott 1878
[ 2 ]. Xenophon's Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War Larry Hedrick-St. Martin’s Griffin, April 2007
[ 3 ]. "British Museum - Search Object Details." British Museum - Welcome to the British Museum. Trans. Irving Finkel. Web. 26 Oct. 2010. .
[ 4 ]. Holy Bible New King James Version
[ 5 ]. 1 Cyrus the Great by: Jacob Abbott 1878
[ 6 ]. McKay, John P., et al. A History of World Societies. 8th ed. Vol. I: To 1715. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009.
[ 8 ]. Oppenheim, A. Leo. "Cyrus Takes Babylon (539 BCE)." Livius. Articles on Ancient History. Web. 26 Oct. 2010. .
3 "British Museum - Search Object Details." British Museum - Welcome to the British Museum. Trans. Irving Finkel. Web. 26 Oct. 2010. .
[ 9 ]. Herodotus, Book I, para 191
[ 10 ]. 5 5 McKay, John P., et al. A History of World Societies. 8th ed. Vol. I: To 1715. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009

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