(Hebraized Ko'resh, כּוֹרֶשׁ [twice כֹּרֶשׁ, Ezr 1:1 lat. clause, 2], 2Ch 36:22-23; Ezr 1:1,7-8; Ezr 3:7; Ezr 4:3,5; Isaiah xiiv. 28; 45:1; Da 1:21; Da 10:1; Chald. id, Ezr 5:13-14,17; Ezr 6:3,14; Da 6:28; Greek Κῦρος, as in 1 Esdras 2:3; 4:44, 57; 5:71, 73; 6:17, 21; for the old Persic Kurush, supposed by the Greeks to mean the sun [Ctesias, Pers. Exc. 49; Plutarch, Artax. I], but rather connected with the Sanscrit Kuru, of unknown signif., Rawlinson, Herod. 3, 455), originally called Agradates (Α᾿γραδάτης, Strabo, 15:729; see Rosenmüller, Alterth. I, 1:367), the celebrated Persian king (מֶלֶך פָּרִס) and conqueror of Babylon, who promulgated the first edict for the restoration of the Jews to their own land (Ezr 1:1, etc.). "In consequence of a dream, Astyages, it is said, designed the death of his infant grandson, but the child was spared by those whom he charged with the commission of the crime (Herod. 1:109 sq.), and Cyrus grew up in obscurity under the name of Agradates (Strab. 15:729). His real parentage was discovered by the imperious spirit which he displayed while yet a boy (Herod. 1:114), and when he grew up to manhood his courage and genius placed him at the head of the Persians. The tyranny of Astyages had at that time alienated a large faction of the Medes, and Cyrus headed a revolt which ended in the defeat and capture of the Median king, B.C. 559, near Pasargadae (now Murgh-Aub) (Strabo, 15:730). After consolidating the empire which he thus gained, Cyrus entered on that career of conquest which has made him the hero of the East. In B.C. 546 (?) he defeated Croesus, and the kingdom of Lydia was the prize of his success. While his general Harpagus was engaged in completing the reduction of Asia Minor, Cyrus turned his arms against the Babylonians. Babylon fell before his army, and the ancient dominions' of Assyria were added to his empire (B.C. 538). The conquest of Babylon opened the way for greater designs. It is probable that Cyrus planned an invasion of Egypt; and there are traces of campaigns in Central Asia, in which he appears to have attempted to extend his power to the Indus (Ctesias, Pers. c. 5 sq.). Afterwards he attacked the Massagetse, and, according to Herodotus, (1. 214; comp. Josephus, Ant. 11:2, 1), he fell in a battle against them B.C. 529 (Clinton; Fast. Hell. 2:301 sq.). His tomb is still shown at Pasargadae (Arrian, Exp. Al. 6:29), the scene of his first decisive victory (Rawlinson, Herod. 1:273).
"It is impossible to insist upon the details of the outline thus sketched. In the time of Herodotus Cyrus was already regarded as the national hero of Persia, and his history had received various popular embellishments (Herod. 1:95; comp. 3, 18, 160; Xenoph. Cyrop. 1:2, 1). In the next century Xenophon chose him as the hero of his romance, and fact and fiction became thenceforth hopelessly confused in classical writers. But, in the absence of authentic details of his actions, the empire which he left is the best record of his power and plans. Like an Oriental Alexander, he aimed at universal dominion; and the influence of Persia, like that of Greece, survived the dynasty from which it sprung. In every aspect the reign of Cyrus marks an epoch in universal history. The fall of Sardis and Babylon was the starting-point of European life; and it is a singular coincidence that the beginning of Grecian art and philosophy, and the foundation of the Roman constitution, synchronize with the triumph of the Arian race in the East (Niebuhr, Gesch. Ass. p. 232)." The following points demand especial consideration, and we therefore elaborate them at considerable length.
1. His Parentage. — Herodotus (1. 107) and Xenophon (Cyrop. 1:2, 1) agree that he was son of Cambyses, prince of Persia, and of Mandane, daughter of Astyages, king of the Median empire. In an Assyrian inscription he is called the "son of Cambyses the powerful king" (Rawlinson, Herod. 1:193). Ctesias denies that there was any relationship at all between Cyrus and Astyages (Pers. Exc. 2). According to him, when Cyrus had defeated and captured Astyages, he adopted him as a grandfather, and invested Amytis, or Amyntis, the daughter of Astyages (whose name is in all probability only another form of Mandane), with all the honors of queen dowager. His object in so doing. was to facilitate the submission of the more distant parts of the empire, which were not yet conquered; and he reaped excellent fruit of his policy in winning the homage of the ancient, rich, and remote province of Bactria. Ctesias adds that Cyrus afterwards married Anmytis. It is easy to see that the latter account is by far the more historical, and that the story followed by Herodotus and Xenophon is that which the courtiers published in aid of the Persian prince's designs. Yet there is no reason for doubting that, on the father's side, Cyrus belonged to the Achsemenidae, the royal clan of the military tribe of the Persians. See Sartorius, De rationib. cur in expon. vita et rel. gest. Cyri, Xenophonti potius quan Herodot. sit credendum (Libben, 1771). A different view is taken in Smith's Dict. of Class. Biog. s.v. SEE DARIUS (THE MEDE).
2. His Elevation to the Throne. — It was the frequent practice of the Persian monarchs, and probably therefore of the Medes before them, to choose the provincial viceroys from the royal families of the subject nations, and thereby to leave to the vanquished much both of the semblance and of the reality of freedom. This will be sufficient to account for the first steps of Cyrus towards eminence. But as the Persian armies were at that time composed of ruder and braver men than the Medes (indeed, to this day, the men of Shiraz are proverbially braver than those of Isfahan), the account of Xenophon is credible, that in the general wars of the empire Cyrus won the attachment of the whole army by his bravery; while, as Herodotus tells, the atrocious cruelties of Astyages may have revolted the hearts of the Median nobility. SEE PERSIA.
3. Transition of the Empire from the Medes to the Persians. — Xenophon's romance omits the fact that the transference of the empire was effected by a civil war; nevertheless, the same writer, in his Anabasis, confesses it (in, 4, 7, 12). Herodotus, Ctesias, Isocrates, Strabo, and, in fact, all who allude to the matter at all, agree that it was so. In Xenophon (l. c.) we find the Upper Tigris to have been the seat of one campaign. where the cities of Larissa and Mespila were besieged and taken by Cyrus. From Strabo we learn that the decisive battle was fought on the spot where Cyrus afterwards built Pasargadse, in Persis, for his native capital. This agrees with Herodotus's account of two armies being successively lost, which may mean that the war was ended in two campaigns. Yet Ctesias represents Astyages as finally captured in the palace of Ecbatana. Cyrus (says Herodotus) did Astyages no harm, but kept him by his side to the end of his life. Ctesias, however, states that he was first made ruler of the Barcanians, and afterwards murdered by a eunuch sent by Cyrus to bring him home to visit his family. The date of the accession of Cyrus is fixed by the unanimous consent of the ancient chronologers as occurring in B.C. 559 (Africanus, ap. Euseb. 10:10; Clinton, ii, s. an.).
The Medes were by no means made subject to the Persians at first. It is highly probable that, as Herodotus and Xenophon represent, many of the noblest Medes sided with Cyrus, and during his reign the most trusted generals of the armies were Medes. Yet even this hardly explains the phenomenon of a Darius the Mede, who, in the book of Daniel, for two years holds the government in Babylon, after the capture of the city by the Medes and Persians. Indeed, the language used concerning the kingdom of Darius might be explained as Oriental hyperbole, and Darius be supposed to have been a mere satrap of Babylon, were it not for the fact that Cyrus is clearly put forward as a successor to Darius the Mede. Many have been the attempts to reconcile this with the current Grecian accounts; but there is one only that has the least plausibility, viz. that which, with Xenophon, teaches that Astyages had a son still living (whom Xenophon calls Cyaxares), and that this son is no other than Darius the Mede; to whom Cyrus, by a sort of nephew's piety, conceded a nominal supremacy at Babylon. SEE CYAXARES. In the reign of the son of Cyrus the depression of the Medes probably commenced. At his death the Magian conspiracy took place, after the defeat of which the Medes doubtless sunk lower still. At a later time they made a general insurrection against the Persian power, and its suppression seems to have brought them to a level with Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and other vassal nations which spoke the tongue of Persia; for the nations of the poetical Irân had only dialectual variations of language (Strabo, 15:2, p. 311). SEE MEDIA.
4. Military Career of Cyrus. — The descriptions given us in Ctesias, and in Plutarch's Artaxerxes (the latter probably taken from Ctesias), concerning the Persian mode of fighting, are quite Homeric in their character. No skill seems to be needed by the general; no tactics are thought of: he does his duty best by behaving as the bravest of common soldiers, and by acting the part of champion, like a knight in the days of chivalry. We cannot suppose that there was any greater advance of the military art in the days of Cyrus. It is agreed by all that he subdued the Lydians, the Greeks of Asia Minor, and the Babylonians: we may doubtless add Susiana, which must have been incorporated with his empire before he commenced his war with Babylon; where also he fixed his military capital (Susa, or Shushan), as more central for the necessities of his administration than Pasargadae. Yet the latter city continued to be the more sacred and beloved home of the Persian court, the place of coronation and of sepulture (Strabo, 15:3, p. 318; and Plut. Artax. init.). All Syria and Phoenicia appear to have come over to Cyrus peaceably.
With regard to the Persian wars, the few facts from Ctesias, which the epitomator has extracted as differing from Herodotus, carry with them high probability. He states that, after receiving the submission of the Bactrians, Cyrus made war on the Sacians, a Scythlan (i.e. a Slavonic) people, who seem to have dwelt, or perhaps rather roved, along the Oxus, from Bokhara to Khiva; and that, after alternate successes in battle, he attached the whole nation to himself in faithful allegiance. Their king is called Amorges by Ctesias. They are undoubtedly the same people that Herodotus (7. 64) calls Amyrgian Sacians; and it is highly probable that they gave to the district of Margiana its name. Their women fought in ranks as systematically as the men. Strabo has cursorily told us of a tradition (15. 2, p. 307) that Cyrus escaped with but seven men through the deserts of Gedrosia, fleeing from the "Indians" — which might denote an unsuccessful war against Candahar, etc., a country which certainly was not reduced to the Persian empire until the reign of Darius Hystaspis.
The closing scene of the career of Cyrus was in battle with a people living on one or both banks of the river Iaxartes, now the Syr-deria. Herodotus calls the enemy the Massagetans, who roamed along the north bank of the river: according to Ctesias it was the Derbices, who seem to have been on the south. Both may, in fact, have combined in the war. In other respects the narrative of Ctesias is beyond comparison more credible, and more agreeable with other known facts, except that he introduces the fiction of Indians with elephants aiding the enemy. Two battles were fought on successive days, in the former of which Cyrus was mortally wounded, but was carried off by his people (B.C. 529, according to Clinton). In the next, the Sacian cavalry and the faithful Amorges came to support him, and the Derbices sustained a total and bloody defeat. Cyrus died the third day after his wound: his body was conveyed to Pasargadae, and buried in the celebrated monument, which was broken open by the Macedonians two centuries afterwards (Strabo, 15:3). A description is given of the tomb in Arrian (6. 29): it was a neat quadrangular edifice, with a low door leading into a little chamber, in which lay a golden sarcophagus, containing the body of Cyrus. The inscription, reported by Aristobulus, an eyewitness, is this: "O mlan, I am Cyrus, who acquired the empire for the Persians, and was king of Asia. Grudge me not, then, this monument." It is generally supposed to have perished, but Sir R. K. Porter has sought to identify it with an extant building known by the natives as that of "the mother of Suleiman" (Travels, 1:498). His name is found on monuments at Murghab, north of Persepolis (Hock, Vet. Med. N. Pers. Monum.).
5. Conduct and Relations of Cyrus towards the Jews. — Hitherto the great kings, with whom the Jews had been brought into contact, had been open oppressors or seductive allies; but Cyrus was a generous liberator and a just guardian of their rights. An inspired prophet (Isa 44:28) recognized in him "a shepherd" of the Lord, an "anointed" king (Isa 45:1; מָשִׁיחִ, Messiah); and the title seemed to later writers to in. vest him with the dignity of being in some sense a type of Christ himself (Jerome, Comm. in Isa 45:1). His successes are connected in the prophecy with their religious issue; and if that appear to be a partial view of history which represents the restoration of a poor remnant of captive Israelites to their own land as the final cause of his victories (Isa 44:28; Isa 45:4), it may be answered that the permanent effects which Persia has wrought upon the world can be better traced through the Jewish people than through any other channel. The laws, the literature, the religion, the very ruins of the material grandeur of Persia have passed away, and still it is possible to distinguish the effects which they produced in preparing the Jews for the fulfillment of their last mission. In this respect, also, the parallel, which has already been hinted, holds good. Cyrus stands out clearly as the representative of the East, as Alexander afterwards of the West. The one led to the development of the idea of order, and the other to that of independence. Ecclesiastically the first crisis was signalized by the consolidation of a Church, the second by the distinction of sects. The one found its outward embodiment in "the great synagogue," the other in the dynasty of the Asmonaeans.
The kings of Assyria and Babylon had carried the Jews into captivity, both to remove a disaffected nation from the frontier, and to people their new cities. By undoing this work, Cyrus attached the Jews to himself as a garrison at an important post. But we may believe that a nobler motive conspired with this. The Persian religion was primitively monotheistic, and strikingly free from idolatry; so little pagan in its spirit that, whatever of the mystical and obscure it may contain, not a single impure, cruel, or otherwise immoral practice was united to any of its ceremonies. It is credible, therefore, that a sincere admiration of the Jewish faith actuated the noble Persian when he exclaimed, in the words of the book of Ezra, "Go ye up and build in Jerusalem the house of Jehovah, God of Israel; he is God!" — and forced the Babylonian temples to disgorge their ill-gotten spoil. It is the more remarkable, since the Persians disapproved the confinement of temples. Nevertheless, impediments to the fortification of Jerusalem afterwards arose, even during the reign of Cyrus (Ezr 4:5). SEE CAPTIVITY.
Perhaps no great conqueror ever left behind him a fairer fame than Cyrus the Great. His mighty achievements have been borne down to us on the voice of the nation which he elevated; his evil deeds had no historian to record them. What is more, it was his singular honor and privilege to be the first Gentile friend to the people of Jehovah in the time of their sorest trouble, and to restore them to the land whence light was to break forth for the illumination of all nations. To this high duty he is called by name by the prophet (Isa 44:28; Isa 45:1), and for performing it he seems to be entitled "the righteous man" (Isa 41:2; Isa 45:13). There are also important passages in Jeremiah (Jer 25:12; Jer 29:10; Jer 23:7-13) that predict the same event, without mentioning the name of Cyrus as the agent. The corresponding his. tory is found in the books of Daniel and Ezra. The language of the proclamation in Ezr 1:2, and 2Ch 36:22, seems to countenance the idea that he wu acquainted, as he easily might be through Daniel, with the prophecy of Isaiah respecting him. SEE DANIEL.
The "first year of Cyrus" there spoken of is not the year of his elevation to power over the Medes, nor the date of the conquest of Persia, nor yet that of the fall of Babylon, B.C. 538; but at the close of the two years succeeding this last event, during which "Darius the Mede" held the viceroyship of Babylon, i.e. in B.C. 536. It was not till then that Cyrus became actual ruler over Palestine, which continued to be attached to the Babylonian department of his empire (see Browne's Ordo Soclorum, p.
173). The edict of Cyrus for the rebuilding of the Temple (2Ch 36:22-23; Ezr 1:1-4; Ezr 3:7; Ezr 4:3; Ezr 5:13,17; Ezr 6:3) was, in fact, the beginning of Judaism; and the great changes by which the nation was transformed into a church are clearly marked. (On the identity of the times of Cyrus and Daniel, see Jour. Sac. Lit. July, 1854, p. 435 sq.; Jan. 1855, p. 364 sq.)
(1.) The lesson of the kingdom was completed by the captivity. The sway of a temporal prince was at length felt to be at best only a faint image of that Messianic kingdom to which the prophets pointed. The royal power had led to apostasy in Israel and to idolatry in Judah, and men looked for some other outward form in which the law might be visibly realized. Dependence on Persia excluded the hope of absolute political freedom, and offered a sure guarantee for the liberty of religious organization.
(2.) The captivity which was the punishment of idolatry was also the limit of that sin. Thenceforth the Jews apprehended fully the spiritual nature of their faith, and held it fast through persecution. At the same time wider views were opened to them of the unseen world. The powers of good and evil were recoghised in their action in the material world, and in this way some preparation was made for the crowning doctrine of Christianity.
(3.) The organization of the outward Church was connected with the purifying of doctrine, and served as the form in which the truth might be realized by the mass. Prayer — public and private — assumed a new importance. The prophetic work came to an end. The Scriptures were collected. The "law was fenced" by an oral tradition. Synagogues were erected, and schools formed. Scribes shared the respect of priests, if they did not supersede them in popular regard.
(4.) Above all, the bond by which "the people of God" were held together was at length felt to be religious and not local, nor even primarily national. The Jews were incorporated in different nations, and still looked to Jerusalem as the center of their faith. The boundaries of Canaan were passed; and the beginnings of a spiritual dispensation were already made when the "Dispersion" was established among the kingdoms of the earth (comp. Niebuhr's Gesch. Assurs und Babels, p. 224 sq.; Ewald, Gesch. d. Volkes Israel, 4:60 sq.; Jost, Gesch. des Judenthums, 1:13 sq.). SEE DISPERSION (OF JEWS).