Cyrus the Great

(Cyrus II of Persia)

558–529 BC

Cyrus was the founder of the Great Persian Empire. He is a character of great importance in history, and a detailed history of his somewhat extraordinary birth and upbringing are given by both Herodotus and Xenophon. Although later Persian emperors were not known for their magnanimity, Cyrus has a relatively good reputation as a just and merciful monarch. He is credited by the Jews with overthrowing the much harsher Babylonian Empire, and allowing 40,000 Jewish exiles to return to Judea. There are numerous other examples of his leniency in dealing with conquered peoples.

When Cyrus was born, the Kingdom of Media, just southwest of the Caspian Sea was the dominant kingdom in the region. It's dominions ranged from eastern Asia Minor to the Indus Valley, and Persia, a small kingdom on the Persian Gulf, was part of the Median Empire. The Babylonian Kingdom to the southwest stretched from Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean, and Lydia dominated most of Asia Minor. By the time Cyrus was thirty, he had conquered all of Media, and Lydia, and was in the process of subduing Babylon. By the time of his death, the entire region, from the West Coast of Asia Minor, to the Indus Valley was combined into a Persian Empire, the largest and most powerful empire the world had thus far ever known. The Persian Empire was to last from 550 B.C. until its overthrow by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. .

Key events during the life of Cyrus:

576 BC
The infant Cyrus ordered to be killed by Astyages, but saved by Harpagus.
566 BC
As a young boy Cyrus is revealed to be the grandson of Astyages.
558 BC
Is raised to the throne of his father's kindom of Anshan.
554 BC
Harpagus plans to help Cyrus overthrow Astyages. Plans Persian Revolt.
550 BC
Armies of Cyrus capture Ecbatana, and conquer Media.
546 BC
Cyrus conquers Lydia; Croesus becomes one of his chief ministers.
544 BC
Cyrus conquers Babylon
536 BC
The Jews are freed to return to Judea. The Temple is rebuilt.
530 BC
Cyrus campains in Scythia.
529 BC
Cyrus is killed while trying to subdue the Massagetae.

Book Links
Cyrus the Great  by  Jacob Abbott

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Young Cupbearer  in  Fifty Famous People  by  James Baldwin
Boy and the Robbers  in  Fifty Famous People  by  James Baldwin
Birth and Bringing Up of Cyrus  in  Stories of the East From Herodotus  by  Alfred J. Church
Cyrus the Great  in  Back Matter  by  books/horne/soldiers/_back.html
Cloud in the East  in  On the Shores of the Great Sea  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

The Exposure of the Infant.
 in Cyrus the Great

Cyrus's Hunting.
 in Cyrus the Great

Cyrus and his grandfather Astyges
 in Fifty Famous People

Otanes and the robber
 in Fifty Famous People

Cyrus Restoring the Sacred Vessels
 in Greatest Nations - Greece

Cyrus the Great
 in Back Matter

Short Biography
Astyages King of Medes, who was overthrown by his grandson Cyrus the Great.
Mandane Mother of Cyrus, married to king of Persia. Daughter of Astyges, King of Medes.
Harpagus Minister of Astyages who betrayed him in favor of Cyrus.
Croesus Wealthy monarch of Lydia who lost his kingdom to Cyrus the Great.
Tomyris Queen of the Scythians. Her army defeated and killed Cyrus the Great.
Amasis II Second to last king of Egypt, died before Egypt was overrun by Cambyses.
Cambyses Eldest son of Cyrus. Invaded Egypt, killed brother, then died.