Cyrus the great ancient history encyclopedia

One of the longest chronological records in human history, the Iranian calendar has been modified time and again during its history to suit administrative, climatic, and religious purposes. The modern Iranian calendar is currently the official calendar in Iran. It begins at the midnight nearest to the instant of the vernal equinox as determined by astronomical calculations for the Iran Standard Time meridian It is, therefore, an observation-based calendar, unlike the Gregorianwhich is rule-based.

The Iranian year usually begins within a day of 21 March of the Gregorian calendar. A short table of year correspondences between the Persian and Gregorian calendars is provided below. The earliest evidence of Iranian calendrical traditions is from the second millennium BC and possibly even predates the appearance of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster.

The first fully preserved calendar is that of the Achaemenidsa royal dynasty of the 5th century BC who gave rise to Zoroastrianism.

Throughout recorded history, Persians have been keen on the idea and importance of having a calendar. They were among the first cultures to use a solar calendar and have long favoured a solar over lunar and lunisolar approaches. The sun has always been a religious and divine symbol in Iranian culture and is the origin of the folklore regarding Cyrus the Great.

Old Persian inscriptions and tablets indicate that early Iranians used a day calendar based on the solar observation directly and modified for their beliefs. Days were not named. The months had two or three divisions depending on the phase of the moon. Twelve months of 30 days were named for festivals or activities of the pastoral year. A 13th month was added every six years to keep the calendar synchronized with the seasons.

The following table lists the Old Persian months. The first calendars based on Zoroastrian cosmology appeared in the later Achaemenid period to BC. They evolved over the centuries, but month names changed little until now. The unified Achaemenid Empire required a distinctive Iranian calendar, and one was devised in Egyptian tradition, with 12 months of 30 days, each dedicated to a yazata Eyzadand four divisions resembling the Semitic week.

Four days per month were dedicated to Ahura Mazda and seven were named after the six Amesha Spentas. Three were dedicated to the female divinities, Daena yazata of religion and personified consciousAshi yazata of fortune and Arshtat justice. The calendar had a significant impact on religious observance. It fixed the pantheon of major divinities, and also ensured that their names were uttered often, since at every Zoroastrian act of worship the yazatas of both day and month were invoked.

It also clarified the pattern of festivities; for example, Mitrakanna or Mehregan was celebrated on Mithra day of Mithra month, and the Tiri festival Tiragan was celebrated on Tiri day of the Tiri month. In BC Cyrus the Great uncertain if he was a Zoroastrian conquered Babylon and the Babylonian luni-solar calendar came into use for civil purposes. Cambyses conquered Egypt in BC. The Zoroastrians adopted the wandering Egyptian solar calendar of twelve months of thirty days plus five epagomenal days.

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As their year began in the spring with the festival of norouz the epagemonai were placed just before norouz. In Egypt the star Sirius had significance since every years the Sothic cycle its heliacal rising just before sunrise marked the Egyptian new year and the inundation of the Nile.

In Persia also the star had significance, since its heliacal rising there also coincided with the coming of the rain. The fourth Persian month was Tishtrya Sirius, rain star. The vernal equinox at Greenwich fell on the first day of the first month from to BC inclusive.

The fourth month includes 20 July, the date of the heliacal rising of Sirius. In the first year the people carried on using the old calendar, anticipating festival dates by five days. As each day is named after a god, it is important to observe the celebrations on the right day. Thus the fravasis festival, which in the old calendar was kept between sunset on 30 Spandarmad and sunrise on 1 Frawardin, was now observed throughout the epagemonai.He is also remembered in the Cyrus legend—first recorded by XenophonGreek soldier and author, in his Cyropaedia —as a tolerant and ideal monarch who was called the father of his people by the ancient Persians.

In the Bible he is the liberator of the Jews who were captive in Babylonia. Cyrus the Great was the founder of the Achaemenian Empire.

Iranian calendars

His empire, stretching from the Aegean Sea to the Indus Riverwas the largest that had ever existed at the time of his rule. Cyrus pieced his kingdom together using a mixture of conquest and diplomacy, attesting to his skills as a warrior and a statesman. The Greek historian Herodotus recorded one of the most well-known legends about the ruler in his History.

Astyages tries to forestall the events of the dream but instead brings them to fruition. Cyrus led other much-mythologized campaigns during his reign, such as his conquests of Lydia and Babylonia. An account of the latter appears in the Bible : Cyrus is the ruler that liberated the Jewish people from their Babylonian captors. Later writers in antiquity also took part in lionizing Cyrus, sacrificing historical accuracy in the process.

Cyrus also appears briefly in the Bible as the ruler who freed the Jewish people from captivity in Babylonia. The meaning of his name is in dispute, for it is not known whether it was a personal name or a throne name given to him when he became a ruler.

It is noteworthy that after the Achaemenian empire the name does not appear again in sources relating to Iran, which may indicate some special sense of the name.

Most scholars agree, however, that Cyrus the Great was at least the second of the name to rule in Persia. One cuneiform text in Akkadian—the language of Mesopotamia present-day Iraq in the pre-Christian era—asserts he was the. In any case, it is clear that Cyrus came from a long line of ruling chiefs. The most important source for his life is the Greek historian Herodotus. The idealized biography by Xenophon is a work for the edification of the Greeks concerning the ideal ruler, rather than a historical treatise.

It does, however, indicate the high esteem in which Cyrus was held, not only by his own people, the Persians, but by the Greeks and others. Herodotus says that the Persians called Cyrus their father, while later Achaemenian rulers were not so well regarded.

The story of the childhood of Cyrus, as told by Herodotus with echoes in Xenophon, may be called a Cyrus legend since it obviously follows a pattern of folk beliefs about the almost superhuman qualities of the founder of a dynasty. Similar beliefs also exist about the founders of later dynasties throughout the history of Iran. According to the legendAstyages, the king of the Medes and overlord of the Persians, gave his daughter in marriage to his vassal in Persis, a prince called Cambyses.

From this marriage Cyrus was born. Astyageshaving had a dream that the baby would grow up to overthrow him, ordered Cyrus slain. His chief adviser, however, instead gave the baby to a shepherd to raise.

When he was 10 years old, Cyrus, because of his outstanding qualities, was discovered by Astyages, who, in spite of the dream, was persuaded to allow the boy to live. Cyrus, when he reached manhood in Persis, revolted against his maternal grandfather and overlord.

Achaemenian Dynasty

Astyages marched against the rebel, but his army deserted him and surrendered to Cyrus in bce. After inheriting the empire of the Medes, Cyrus first had to consolidate his power over Iranian tribes on the Iranian plateau before expanding to the west.

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Croesusking of Lydia in Asia Minor Anatoliahad enlarged his domains at the expense of the Medes when he heard of the fall of Astyages, and Cyrus, as successor of the Median king, marched against Lydia. Sardisthe Lydian capital, was captured in orand Croesus was either killed or burned himself to death, though according to other sources he was taken prisoner by Cyrus and well treated.

The Ionian Greek cities on the Aegean Sea coast, as vassals of the Lydian king, now became subject to Cyrus, and most of them submitted after short sieges.

cyrus the great ancient history encyclopedia

Several revolts of the Greek cities were later suppressed with severity. Next Cyrus turned to Babyloniawhere the dissatisfaction of the people with the ruler Nabonidus gave him a pretext for invading the lowlands. The conquest was quick, for even the priests of Mardukthe national deity of the great metropolis of Babylonhad become estranged from Nabonidus.

In October bcethe greatest city of the ancient world fell to the Persians. In the Bible e. Cyrus was also tolerant toward the Babylonians and others. He conciliated local populations by supporting local customs and even sacrificing to local deities.Cyrus the Great c. He is mentioned 23 times by name and alluded to several times more. In the first year of his reign he was prompted by God to decree that the Temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt and that such Jews as cared to might return to their land for this purpose.

Moreover, he showed his interest in the project by sending back with them the sacred vessels which had been taken from the First Temple and a considerable sum of money with which to buy building materials. The existence of the decree has been challenged. Cyrus the Great is unconditionally praised in the Jewish sources. It is likely that, after the Persian conquest of BabylonCyrus had commenced his relationship with the Jewish leaders in exile, [2] and that he later was considered as anointed by God.

The Hebrew Bible states that Cyrus issued the decree of liberation to the Jews. According to Ezra —6 "the enemies of Judah and Benjamin" asked to help build the temple, and when this was denied hired counselors to frustrate the people of Judah from completing the rebuilding throughout the reign of CyrusXerxes 'Ahasuerus'and Artaxerxesuntil the reign of Darius II.

The work recommenced under the exhortations of the prophets, and when the authorities asked the Jews what right they had to build a temple, they referred to the decree of Cyrus. Darius IIwho was then reigning, caused a search for this alleged decree to be made, and it was found in the archives at Ecbatana[5] whereupon Darius reaffirmed the decree and the work proceeded to its triumphant close. A chronicle drawn up just after the conquest of Babylonia by Cyrus gives the history of the reign of Nabonidus 'Nabuna'id'the last king of Babylon, and of the fall of the Babylonian empire.

cyrus the great ancient history encyclopedia

In June the Babylonian army was completely defeated at Opisand immediately afterwards Sippara opened its gates to the conqueror. Gobryas Ugbaruthe governor of Mediawas then sent to Babylon, which surrendered "without fighting," and the daily services in the temples continued without a break. In October, Cyrus himself arrived, and proclaimed a general amnesty, which was communicated by Gobryas to "all the province of Babylon," of which he had been made governor.

Meanwhile, Naboniduswho had concealed himself, was captured, but treated honourably; and when his wife died, Cambyses IIthe son of Cyrus, conducted the funeral.

Cyrus now assumed the title of "king of Babylon," claimed to be the descendant of the ancient kings, and made rich offerings to the temples. At the same time he allowed the foreign populations who had been deported to Babylonia to return to their old homes, carrying with them the images of their gods.

Among these populations were the Jews, who, as they had no images, took with them the sacred vessels of the temple. Speculation abounds as to the reasoning for Cyrus' release of the Jews from Babylon. One argument is that Cyrus was a follower of Zoroasterthe monotheistic prophet: Zoroastrianism played a dominant religious role in Persia throughout its history until the Islamic conquest.

As such, he would have felt a kindred spirit with the monotheistic Jews. Another possibility is the magnanimous respect he is ascribed to have evinced for the diverse beliefs and customs of the peoples within his extended kingdom.

As one example, upon the conquest of Babylon itself, it is recorded that he paid homage at the temple of the Babylonian god Marduk — thereby gaining the support of the Babylonian people and minimizing further bloodshed. While Jewish tradition, as described previously in Ezra —8indicates "the Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation", in the Cyrus Cylinder he pays homage to Marduk. This Babylonian document has been interpreted as referring to the return to their homelands of several displaced cultural groups, one of which could have been the Jews:.

I gathered all their inhabitants and returned to them their dwellings. In addition, at the command of Marduk, the great lord, I settled in their habitations, in pleasing abodes, the gods of Sumer and Akkad, whom Nabonidus, to the anger of the lord of the gods, had brought into Babylon. However, it has been argued that it must be referring to people associated to the image's cult instead of deportees.He may have been the " Artasyrus " mentioned by Herodotus as being a satrap of the royal satrapy of Bactria.

Artaxerxes was probably born in the reign of his grandfather Darius Ito the emperor's son and heir, Xerxes I. In BC, Xerxes I was murdered by Hazarapat "commander of thousand" Artabanusthe commander of the royal bodyguard and the most powerful official in the Persian court, with the help of a eunuchAspamitres. According to Ctesias in Persica 20Artabanus then accused Crown Prince DariusXerxes's eldest son, of the murder, and persuaded Artaxerxes to avenge the patricide by killing Darius.

But according to Aristotle in Politics 5. After Artaxerxes discovered the murder, he killed Artabanus and his sons. The Persians retreated to Memphisand the Athenians were finally defeated in BC, by the Persian army led by Megabyzusafter a two-year siege.

Inaros was captured and carried away to Susa. After the Achaemenid Empire had been defeated at the Battle of the Eurymedon c. This indirectly caused the Athenians to move the treasury of the Delian League from the island of Delos to the Athenian acropolis.

Also, Artaxerxes I gave him MagnesiaMyusand Lampsacus to maintain him in bread, meat, and wine.

Cambyses II

In addition, Artaxerxes I gave him Skepsis to provide him with clothes, and he also gave him Percote with bedding for his house. Ezra thereby left Babylon in the first month of the seventh year [14] of Artaxerxes' reign, at the head of a company of Jews that included priests and Levites. They arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month of the seventh year according to the Hebrew calendar.

So, they clearly were contemporaries working together in Jerusalem at the time the wall and the city of Jerusalem was rebuilt in contrast to the previously stated viewpoint. This assumption would imply that the biblical account is not chronological.

cyrus the great ancient history encyclopedia

The last group of scholars regard "the seventh year" as a scribal error and hold that the two men were contemporaries. The rebuilding of the Jewish community in Jerusalem had begun under Cyrus the Greatwho had permitted Jews held captive in Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild Solomon's Temple. Consequently, a number of Jews returned to Jerusalem in BCand the foundation of this " Second Temple " was laid in BCin the second year of their return Ezra After a period of strife, the temple was finally completed in the sixth year of Darius, BC Ezra In Artaxerxes' twentieth year, Nehemiahthe king's cup-bearerapparently was also a friend of the king as in that year Artaxerxes inquired after Nehemiah's sadness.

Nehemiah related to him the plight of the Jewish people and that the city of Jerusalem was undefended. The king sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem with letters of safe passage to the governors in Trans-Euphrates, and to Asaphkeeper of the royal forests, to make beams for the citadel by the Temple and to rebuild the city walls. Roger Williamsa 17th-century Christian minister and founder of Rhode Islandinterpreted several passages in the Old and New Testament to support limiting government interference in religious matters.

Williams published The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Consciencearguing for a separation of church and state based on biblical reasoning. Williams believed that Israel was a unique covenant kingdom and not an appropriate model for New Testament Christians who believed that the Old Testament covenant had been fulfilled.

Therefore, the more informative Old Testament examples of civil government were "good" non-covenant kings such as Artaxerxes, who tolerated the Jews and did not insist that they follow his state religion. By Alogyne of Babylon. By Cosmartidene of Babylon. By Andia of Babylon.Achaemenian Dynastyalso called AchaemenidPersian Hakhamanishiya— bceancient Iranian dynasty whose kings founded and ruled the Achaemenian Empire. From his son Teispes two lines of kings descended.

Probably the greatest of the Achaemenian rulers were Cyrus II reigned — c.

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The Achaemenian rule of conquered peoples was generally liberal; the empire itself was divided into provinces satrapieseach administered by a satrap who underwent frequent inspections by officials reporting directly to the king. Royal inscriptions were usually trilingual, in Old Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian; Aramaic, however, was employed for imperial administration and diplomatic correspondence.

Building activity was extensive during the height of the empire, and of the several Achaemenian capitals, the ruins at Pasargadae and at Persepolis are probably the most outstanding.

Achaemenian sculptured reliefs and a great number of smaller art objects present a remarkably unified style for the period. Metalwork, especially in gold, was highly developed, and a variety of carefully executed examples survive. Print Cite. Facebook Twitter. Give Feedback External Websites. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article requires login. External Websites. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree See Article History.

Alternative Titles: Achaemenid dynasty, Hakhamanishiya dynasty. Read More on This Topic. There may have been some Get exclusive access to content from our First Edition with your subscription. Subscribe today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. The first ruler of the Achaemenid dynasty to strike coins…. In bce Cyrus II of the Persian Achaemenian dynasty followed up his triumph over Media by conquering Lydia and Babylonia, thus making himself ruler of the greatest empire thitherto known.

In the administrative reforms implemented by Darius I…. History at your fingertips.

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Sign up here to see what happened On This Dayevery day in your inbox! Email address. By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox.Following the fall of Babylon to the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great in BCE, some Judean exiles returned to Jerusaleminaugurating the formative period in the development of a distinctive Judahite identity in the province of Yehud Medinata.

Following the installation of client kingdoms under the Herodian dynastythe Province of Judea was wracked by civil disturbances, which culminated in the First Jewish—Roman Warthe destruction of the Second Temple, the emergence of Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity.

The name Judea Iudaea then ceased to be used by Greco-Romans. East of the plain and the Shfela is a mountainous ridge, the "hill country of Judah" in the south, the "hill country of Ephraim" north of that, then Galilee and Mount Lebanon. To the east again lie the steep-sided valley occupied by the Jordan Riverthe Dead Seaand the wadi of the Arabahwhich continues down to the eastern arm of the Red Sea.

Beyond the plateau is the Syrian desert, separating the Levant from Mesopotamia. To the southwest is Egypt, to the northeast Mesopotamia. The location and geographical characteristics of the narrow Levant made the area a battleground among the powerful entities that surrounded it. Canaan in the Late Bronze Age was a shadow of what it had been centuries earlier: many cities were abandoned, others shrank in size, and the total settled population was probably not much more than a hundred thousand.

The Canaanite city state system broke down during the Late Bronze Age collapse[15] and Canaanite culture was then gradually absorbed into that of the PhilistinesPhoenicians and Israelites.

The name "Israel" first appears in the Merneptah Stele c. Archaeologist Paula McNutt says: "It is probably In the Late Bronze Age there were no more than about 25 villages in the highlands, but this increased to over by the end of Iron Age I, while the settled population doubled from 20, to 40, They described how, up untilthe Israelite heartland in the highlands of western Palestine was virtually an archaeological terra incognita.

Since then, intensive surveys have examined the traditional territories of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh. These surveys have revealed the sudden emergence of a new culture contrasting with the Philistine and Canaanite societies existing in the Land of Israel earlier during Iron Age I. The Israelite ethnic identity had originated, not from the Exodus and a subsequent conquestbut from a transformation of the existing Canaanite-Philistine cultures.

These surveys revolutionized the study of early Israel. There was no sign of violent invasion or even the infiltration of a clearly defined ethnic group. Instead, it seemed to be a revolution in lifestyle. In the formerly sparsely populated highlands from the Judean hills in the south to the hills of Samaria in the north, far from the Canaanite cities that were in the process of collapse and disintegration, about two-hundred fifty hilltop communities suddenly sprang up. Here were the first Israelites.

Modern scholars therefore see Israel arising peacefully and internally from existing people in the highlands of Canaan.

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Unusually favourable climatic conditions in the first two centuries of Iron Age II brought about an expansion of population, settlements and trade throughout the region. At this time Israel was apparently engaged in a three-way contest with Damascus and Tyre for control of the Jezreel Valley and Galilee in the north, and with MoabAmmon and Aram Damascus in the east for control of Gilead ; [31] the Mesha Stele c.

It bears what is generally thought to be the earliest extra-biblical reference to the name Yahweh. LMLK seals on storage jar handles, excavated from strata in and around that formed by Sennacherib's destruction, appear to have been used throughout Sennacherib's year reign, along with bullae from sealed documents, some that belonged to Hezekiah himself and others that name his servants.

In the 7th century Jerusalem grew to contain a population many times greater than earlier and achieved clear dominance over its neighbours. Babylonian Judah suffered a steep decline in both economy and population [40] and lost the Negev, the Shephelah, and part of the Judean hill country, including Hebron, to encroachments from Edom and other neighbours.

The Babylonian conquest entailed not just the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, but the liquidation of the entire infrastructure which had sustained Judah for centuries.

The concentration of the biblical literature on the experience of the exiles in Babylon disguises the fact that the great majority of the population remained in Judah; for them, life after the fall of Jerusalem probably went on much as it had before. Cyrus was succeeded as king by Cambyseswho added Egypt to the empire, incidentally transforming Yehud and the Philistine plain into an important frontier zone.

His death in was followed by a period of turmoil until Darius the Great seized the throne in about Darius introduced a reform of the administrative arrangements of the empire including the collection, codification and administration of local law codes, and it is reasonable to suppose that this policy lay behind the redaction of the Jewish Torah.

Yehud's population over the entire period was probably never more than about 30, and that of Jerusalem no more than about 1, most of them connected in some way to the Temple. When Alexander died inhe had no heirs that were able to take his place as ruler of his empire, so his generals divided the empire among themselves.A limestone tomb there is believed to be that of Cyrus the Great.

The city remained the Achaemenid capital until Darius moved it to Persepolis.

cyrus the great ancient history encyclopedia

The archaeological site covers 1. Pasargadae Persian Gardens provide the earliest known example of the Persian chahar baghor fourfold garden design see Persian Gardens. The remains of the tomb of Cyrus' son and successor Cambyses II have been found in Pasargadae, near the fortress of Toll-e Takht, and identified in The Gate R, located at the eastern edge of the palace area, is the oldest known freestanding propylaeum.

It may have been the architectural predecessor of the Gate of All Nations at Persepolis. The most important monument in Pasargadae is the tomb of Cyrus the Great. It has six broad steps leading to the sepulchre, the chamber of which measures 3.

Though there is no firm evidence identifying the tomb as that of Cyrus, Greek historians say that Alexander believed it was. When Alexander looted and destroyed Persepolis, he paid a visit to the tomb of Cyrus. Arrianwriting in the second century CE, recorded that Alexander commanded Aristobulus, one of his warriors, to enter the monument. Inside he found a golden bed, a table set with drinking vessels, a gold coffin, some ornaments studded with precious stones and an inscription on the tomb.

No trace of any such inscription survives, and there is considerable disagreement to the exact wording of the text. Strabo reports that it read:. Passer-by, I am Cyrus, who gave the Persians an empire, and was king of Asia.

Grudge me not therefore this monument. O man, whoever thou art, from wheresoever thou comest, for I know you shall come, I am Cyrus, who founded the empire of the Persians. Grudge me not, therefore, this little earth that covers my body. The design of Cyrus' tomb is credited to Mesopotamian or Elamite zigguratsbut the cella is usually attributed to Urartu tombs of an earlier period.

The main decoration on the tomb is a rosette design over the door within the gable. Schmidt produced a series of aerial photographs of the entire complex. From toan Iranian team led by Ali Sami worked there.

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Dating to the 5th-4th centuries BC, the treasure consists of ornate Achaemenid jewellery made from gold and precious gems and is now housed in the National Museum of Iran and the British Museum.


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