Cyrus the Great was the founder of the
Archaemenian dynasty and the Persian Empire. Cyrus' military
victories eventually put him in possession of the largest empire
in the world at that time. No doubt he was a remarkably humane
ruler for his time. Certainly he has achieved his greatness not
by words but by hard and difficult choices, actions, and
sacrifice. Without any doubt all the above selected criteria in
regard to Cyrus the Great is true. Even the Greeks, who for a
long time considered the Persian Empire to be the chief threat
to their own independence, never ceased to regard Cyrus as a
thoroughly admirable ruler. His policy towards the people of his
empire was one of tolerance and understanding, as reflected in
his authorization of the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple in
538 BC. Cyrus the Great died in battle in 530 BC. He was
succeeded by his son Cambyses. Cyrus the Great achieves highest
rank among all world leaders throughout the human history
because of the following reasons:
· High moral
and ethical values.
Persian Empire based on ethics.
the Ethical Empire to include all men who wish to join it.
· In the
Bible (e.g., Ezra 1:1-4), Cyrus is famous for freeing the Jewish
captives in Babylonia and allowing them to return to their
homeland. His name occurs twenty two times in the Bible.
Establishment of a constitution and Judicial system based on
high moral and ethical values.
of religion, job, and place of residency; being advocate of
freedom of choice 2500 years ago is very admirable. On the
contrary Constantine the Great 800 years later did not have
religious toleration (persecuted the Jews) and introduced laws
that made certain occupations (e.g., butchers, bakers)
· Were it
not for Cyrus, therefore, it seems at least possible that the
Jewish people would have died out as a separate group in the
fifth century BC
Gold and Silver coins for trading.
all Governors to treat the people as their own children, and no
one could be executed for a first time crime.
was not allowed. The Old Persian culture did not accept the
concept of slavery. This is a good indication of a great ethical
culture; we can admire this especially when we see some 250
years later Aristotle's ideas of slavery as natural law. This
idea of Aristotle was used in the Roman Empire and after that in
the British Empire as natural law.
the fact that Cyrus the Great was a genius he would consult with
other leaders from different ethnic background to come up with a
better solution for their problems.
· Cyrus was
clearly a leader of immense military ability, and an outstanding
· Cyrus the
Great had a Major influence on the thinking of Aristotle and
Alexander the Great, and the Roman Empire form of government.
· He was
exceptionally tolerant of local religions and local customs.
· He was
moderate and respectful toward his defeated opponents, and if
they were popular leaders among their people let them continue
with their positions.
Cyrus the Great was the founder of the
Persian Empire, the first ethical empire throughout human
history. He overthrew three great empires (Medes, Lydians, and
Babylonians), and united most of the ancient Middle East into a
single state stretching from India to the Mediterranean Sea.
Cyrus (Kurush in the original Persian) was born about 590 BC, in
the province of Persis (now Fars), in southwest Iran. Cyrus was
the grandson of Astyages, king of the Medes. Before Cyrus's
birth, Astyages had a dream that his grandson would someday
overthrow him. The king ordered that the infant be killed
promptly after his birth. However, the official entrusted with
the job of killing the infant had no heart for such a bloody
deed, and instead handed him over to a shepherd and his wife
with instructions that they put the child to death. But they,
too, were unwilling to kill the boy, and instead reared him as
their own. Ultimately, when the child grew up, he indeed caused
the king's downfall.
Cyrus was clearly a leader of immense
military ability. But that was only one facet of the man. More
distinctive, perhaps, was the benign character of his rule. He
was exceptionally tolerant of local religions and local customs,
and he was disinclined to the extreme brutality and cruelty,
which characterized so many other conquerors. The Babylonians,
for instance, and even more notably the Assyrians, had massacred
many thousands and had exiled whole peoples whose rebellion they
feared. For example, when the Babylonians had conquered Judea in
586 BC, they had deported much of the population to Babylon. But
fifty years later, after Cyrus had conquered Babylonia, he gave
the Jews permission to return to their homeland. Were it not for
Cyrus, therefore, it seems at least possible that the Jewish
people would have died out as a separate group in the fifth
century BC On the contrary, Constantine the Great emperor of
Rome (c. 280-337) did not have religious toleration and can be
said to mark the beginning of the official persecution of the
Jews that was to persist in Europe for so many centuries.
To understand the greatness of Cyrus
relative to his time (2500 years ago) we should compare him with
Alexander The Great whom he came to power 250 years after Cyrus.
Alexander had been brought up to believe that Greek culture
represented the only true civilization, and that all of the
non-Greek peoples were barbarians. Such, of course, was the
prevailing view throughout the Greek world, and even Aristotle
had shared it. When Alexander conquered the Persian capital
Persepolis; he destroyed Persepolis (the ruin exists today). You
can see the difference of these two leaders -- one conquers and
allows freedom, the other conquers and destroys.
Another important point is that while
Aristotle (250 years after Cyrus the Great) who was perhaps the
greatest philosopher and scientist of the ancient world, he
supported slavery. Aristotle originated the study of formal
logic, enriched almost every branch of philosophy, and made
numerous contributions to science, he supported slavery as being
in accord with natural law, and he believed in the natural
inferiority of women. Despite these last two extremely
reactionary ideas, some of Aristotle's views were progressive
e.g., "Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime,"
"All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind are
convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of
youth." the belief that it is worthwhile for human beings
to conduct a systematic inquiry into every aspect of the natural
world; and the conviction that we should utilize both empirical
observations and logical reasoning in forming our conclusions.
Despite Aristotle's ideas of slavery as
natural law, Cyrus the Great did not believe in slavery never
took any slaves and hated brutality and injustice. This is
another indication of an old rich Persian culture, which was
based on ethics. Even today many forms of
slavery exist in this globe, which is a disgrace to all
humanity. For example in Time Magazine, June 21, 93 page 46 we
read the following:
" A 1991 conference of Southeast
Asian women's organizations estimated that 30 million women had
been sold worldwide since the mid-1970s. Such figures are at
best guesses and at worst only the tip of the iceberg."
Even if we compare Cyrus the Great with
political leaders of our time he still achieves highest rank.
One of the key attributes of Cyrus the Great was his fight
against cruel rulers while not becoming a blind expansionist.
We would admire Cyrus the Great more
when we see domination of Machiaavelli philosophy in our time
around this globe. The Italian political philosopher Niccolo
Machiavelli (1469-1527) is notorious for his blunt advice that a
ruler interested in maintaining and increasing his power should
make use of deceitfulness, cunning, and lies, combined with a
ruthless use of force. Machiavelli principal fame rests upon his
book "The Prince"(a handbook for dictators). The
Prince may be considered a primer of practical advice for a head
of state. The basic point of view of the book is that in order
to succeed; a prince should ignore moral considerations entirely
and depend upon strength and cunning. Machiavelli discussed
history and politics in purely human terms, and simply ignored
moral consideration. Unfortunately Machiavelli is considered to
be one of the principal founders of modern political thought. In
chapter 17 of The Prince, Machiavelli discusses whether it is
better for a prince to be loved or feared: "The reply is
that one ought to be both feared and loved, but...it is much
safer to be feared than loved, if one of the two has to be
wanting ...for love is held by a chain of obligation which, men
being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purposes, but
fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails."
Often, the most denunciation came from those who practiced what
Machiavelli preached- a hypocrisy of which Machiavelli might
approve, in principle! Therefore we should not judge politicians
by their words but by their hard and difficult choices, actions,
and great sacrifices.
Because of all the above reasons and
high moral and ethical values Cyrus the Great scored the highest
rank among all the greatest world's leaders both in ancient and
modern times. Therefore Cyrus the Great may be said to be among
the greatest political leaders of all time throughout human
The study of Cyrus the Great and
establishment of his ethical Persian empire some 2500 years ago
is a good indication that in our time the concept of world order
based on ethics, ethical state, peace and harmony among nations
are not an impossible goal and illusion. In this century the
most fundamental and essential ingredients of an evolution
towards these goals are democracy, freedom of expression,
freedom of choice, freedom of religion, cultural toleration,
human rights, political feedback mechanism, open trade policy,
and open communications among people in this globe. The ethics
of life are the pursuit of awareness for ourselves and others.
The ultimate goal is total awareness. Ethical Government is a
means of achieving that goal by raising man to a higher state of
total awareness. Ethical leaders can lead men toward Ethical
Government and Society, which can lead man to total awareness.
To increase man's power is always ethical. However, only men who
use power to expand awareness are ethical. Men who use power to
diminish awareness are unethical.
Cyrus Marvasti 1993