|Fig.1: Connecting with Cyrus is a must for any young, aspiring career-seeker.
|Fig.2: Territory of the Median Empire, with the Persis
region labeled. Cyrus would take care of all the
different colors, however.
But according to the Greek historian Herodotus, who admittedly liked making up good stories about history rather than strive for accuracy (at least I do that with jokes), Christmas dinner got awkward after Astyages dreamed that his own grandson would one day overthrow him. He ordered for Cambyses' newborn baby, Cyrus, to be killed by taking him up to the mountains and leaving him to rot (the original definition of "spoiling your grandkids"). Luckily, Cyrus was rescued by a herdsman and his wife, who raised him as their own. (This oft-repeated theme of children of noble birth growing up within a humble family was beaten to death in ancient times, with the same occurring with the Greek hero Heracles, the Roman founders Romulus and Remus, and successful newspaper reporter Clark Kent.) It soon became apparent by the time Cyrus turned ten that he was a king at heart, herding his goats through taxation and demanding that they bow upon his arrival. Astyages soon became suspicious and interviewed the boy (the first of many for Cyrus), with the Median king deciding that this was indeed his grandson in the flesh (unfortunately, sans-rot). He was soon sent back to his parents as a prince of Persia with nothing more than a "My bad."
|Fig.3: Cyrus preferred to show off his
good side during interviews.
The Lydian Kingdom in present-day Turkey saw this as the perfect time to invade territory previously under Median control. Cyrus showed the Lydians that their investments were a little to hasty, crushing them at the Battle of Thymbra and capturing their capital of Sardis around 547 BC. Asia Minor was then added to Cyrus's domain, but resting on your laurels was not the way to get ahead in the shark tank of the ancient world. Eventually Cyrus attacked the Babylonian Empire, rulers of Mesopotamia and all its irrigation. Unfortunately this wasn't the same Babylonian Empire of Hammurabi days; it had the look and feel of the one that fell centuries before (even reviving the use of the long-dead Sumerian dialect for official business, much to the glee of language acquisition companies like Rosetta Stone), but this "Neo-Babylonian" Empire certainly was not "the one." Cyrus routed the Babylonians at the Battle of Mr. Holland's Opis in 539 BC, and quickly followed it up with the capture of Babylon. Luckily for the Persians, the Babylonians also controlled Syria, the increasingly Holy Land of Judea, and parts of Arabia! The addition of these lands created the largest empire mankind had seen to that date, and forced Cyrus to tighten the margin-size of his resume in order to keep it to a single page.
The task of administering such a wealth of territory would have brought down a lesser man (I'm looking at you, Napoleon), but Cyrus was up to the challenge. While his central capital was in Pasargadae, which he transformed from a Double-A village into a Major League city, he also established regional capitals around the empire which was ruled by a satrap (or royal crony). To bring the Persian Empire closer together, one of the earliest postal systems was created in the Chapar Khaneh, which allowed vital low-interest credit card offers and coupons for Kohl's to cross 2,500 kilometers in just over a week. At the same time, Cyrus allowed the various nationalities within his realm to continue living their lives like nothing had changed, refusing to meddle in their culture, religion, or barbequing techniques. This is apparent in the Cyrus Cylinder (fig.4), which was created shortly after the conquest of Babylon. In it, Cyrus tugs at the Babylonian heart strings by claiming he was sent by their chief god, Marduk, to liberate them from oppression and improve their lives. He boldly states, "I have enabled all the lands to live in peace," even though a little war was needed to bring about that peace. A classic piece of Mesopotamian propaganda, many people have come to see the Cyrus Cylinder as the first doctrine of human rights ever made, even though that term really had not been conceived yet (the only thing humans had a right to back then was to be enslaved when they lost at anything).
|Fig.4: Cyrus obviously got a little hungry while composing his Cylinder...
In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be sixty cubits high and sixty cubits wide, with three courses of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury. (Ezra 6:3-4, NIV).Another translation has Cyrus pointing to folks in the Jewish audience and saying, "You get a temple! You get a temple! Everybody gets a temple!" Nevertheless, the building of the Second Temple ushered in a brand new period of Jewish history where the group flourished under Persian then Greek rule, until the Romans came along and messed it all up in the first century After Doughnuts (for the lazy: AD). Because of which, Cyrus is the only non-Jewish person (or goyim, if you will) to be called a Messiah, a leader sent by God to liberate His chosen people and promote peace around the world. It would be silly to believe that Cyrus played nice with the Jews just to get on their good side and eventually allow his descendants to invade and take over Judea's wealthy neighbor of Egypt. Oh ye of little faith!
|Fig.5: As the CIA will admit, water-
boarding is not nearly as effective when
the guy is already dead.
What really separates Cyrus from many other "the Great"s in history is the fact that his death did not unravel his whole empire. The administrative policies he put into place ensured the Achaemenid Empire continued to govern and expand, with his son, Cambyses II, even adding the wealth, soil, and rock-climbing walls of Egypt to their domain. The influence of the Persians would grow and grow over the decades, nearly conquering those smarty-pantses in Greece in the early 5th century BC, before getting a taste of their own medicine with Alexander the Great in 330 BC. Nonetheless, Cyrus's contributions established what many historians believe to be the world's first multinational empire, enabling him to network and grease elbows all over Western Asia. Any man lucky enough to have a Cylinder of Recommendation from Cyrus is almost guaranteed a job in their field, while those trapped in his spam folder are doomed to obscurity. I suppose I'll merely be a Canned Historian forever...