Cyrus Ii of Persia

Cyrus II of Persia

Cyrus II of Persia, also known as Cyrus the Great, was the illiterate founder of the expansionist Persian empire under the Achaemenid dynasty. Cyrus the Great created the greatest empire history had ever seen. There are few ancient sources who refer to him apart from Herodotus who saw him as an ingenious and ideal king. The key events of his life were summed up by Xenophon when he wrote, “Cyrus… finding the nations in Asia also independent… started out with a little band of Persians and became the leader of the Medes by their full consent and of the Hyrcanians by theirs; he then conquered Syria, Assyria, Arabia, Cappadocia, both Phrygias, Lydia, Caria, Phoenicia and Babylonia… and many other nations of which one could not even tell the names… the tribes which he brought into subjection to himself were so many that it is a difficult matter even to travel to them all, in whatever direction one begins one’s journey, whether towards the east or west, towards the north or south…”. Within forty years Cyrus had created an empire three times the size of the previous largest in history, the Median empire.
Cyrus became king of Ashan in western Persia (modern Iran) in 559 BC. In 550 BC Cyrus defeated the Median kingm, Astyages, at his capital, Ecbatana. According to Herodotus, because the last Median ruler was very cruel, the Median nobles either turned against their ruler or a portion of the population rebelled. Not a single text from Media is known and Ecbatana lies underneath the modern city of Hamadan so therefore cannot be excavated. The Lydian king, Croesus, was very rich and ambitious. He decided to attack Cyrus II in Persia, in 547 BC and was defeated and retreated to his capital, Sardis, chased by Cyrus. Cyrus then fought the battle of Pteria against the Lydians, after which he marched to Sardis and took the city. Cyrus reported his taking of the Lydian state, “In May he marched to the land of Lydia. He killed its king. He took its booty. He...