CYRUS THE GREAT (also called Cyrus the Elder, to distinguish him from Cyrus the Younger, son of Darius II., killed at Cunaxa, 401 B.C.): Founder of the Persian Empire; b. about 600 B.C.; d. in July, 529 B.C. He belonged to the elder line of the Achaemenidae, which became extinct with the death of his son, Cambyses. Herodotus and Ctesias relate that he was of humble origin; but from inscriptions still preserved it is evident that he was of royal descent. In his cylinder inscription he designates his predecessors up to Teispes as kings of Anshan, which by some has been interpreted as Susiana, by others as the ancestral seat of the Achaemenidae. He ascended the throne in 559, but not as an independent ruler, being forced to recognize Median overlordship. However, in 550 he conquered the last of the Median kings, Astyages, captured Ecbatana, in 546 assumed the title "king of Persia," and gained for the Persians dominion over the Iranian peoples. An alliance was formed against Cyrus by Croesus of Lydia, Nabonidus of Babylon, and Amasis II. of Egypt; but before the allies could unite Cyrus had occupied Sardis, overthrown the Lydian kingdom, and taken Croesus prisoner (546 B.C.). In 538 there followed the occupation of Babylon by Cyrus. According to the Babylonian inscription this was in all probability a bloodless victory (see BABYLONIA, VI., 7, $ 3). From the list of countries subject to Persian rule given on the first tablet of the great Darius inscription of Behistan, written before any new conquests could have been made except that of Egypt, the dominion of Cyrus must have covered all Hither Asia and reached as far eastward as the borders of India. According to Herodotus and Ctesias, Cyrus met his death in the year 529, while warring against tribes northeast of the headwaters of the Tigris. He was buried in the town of Pasargadae. Both Strabo and Arrian give descriptions of his tomb, based upon reports of men who saw it at the time of Alexander's invasion. The tomb northeast of Persepolis, which has been claimed as that of Cyrus, is evidently not his, as its location dose not fit the reports.
Cyrus was distinguished no less as statesman than as a soldier. His statesmanship came out particularly in his treatments of newly conquered peoples. By pursuing a policy of generosity, instead of repression, and by favoring the local religion, he was able to make his new subjects his enthusiastic supporters. A good example of this policy is found in his treatment of the Jews in Babylon.(B. Lindner.)
Cyrus figures in the old Testament as the patron and deliverer of the Jews. He is mentioned twenty-three times by name and alluded to several times more, viz.: II Chron. xxxvi. 22 (twice), 3; Ezra i. 1 (twice), 2, 7, 8, iii. 7, iv. 3, 13, 14, 17, vi. 3; Isa. xliv. 28, xlv. 1; Dan. i. 21, vi. 28, x. 1. From these statements it appears that Cyrus, king of Persia, was the monarch under whom the captivity of the Jews ended, for in the first year of his reign he was prompted of Yahweh to make a 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
The work of ecclesiastical renovation by this time was well organized: the supervision and exercise of discipline rested in the nuncio's hands; the education of the clergy was carefully regulated, and the schools were organized anew. In these matters the Jesuits' activity proved eminently effectual. Both Jesuits and Capuchins were fruitfully diligent in the cure of souls. The increasing number of their colleges and convents affords the best demonstration of their ever-enlarging labor; in 1581 there arose a Jesuits' College in Fribourg; at Puntrut in 1588; in Valais, 1607; while the Capuchins established themselves at Stans in 1582, at Lucerne in 1583, in Schwytz in 1585, in Fribourg in 1586; in Soleure, Sitten, and Appenzell, 1588; and in Zug, 1597. Cysat was widely active in connection with the founding of Jesuits' colleges. The temporal authorities of the Roman cantons supported all these cooperative agencies, and directed their external policy to the same object. Opposition to the Protestant cantons led to a closer cohesion of the Catholic associates in faith; in 1579 a union was ratified between the seven Roman cantons and the bishop of Basel; and in Oct., 1586, the "Golden League" of the Catholic Confederates for the defense of their faith came into being; an alliance was sought with France, but above all with Spain and Savoy. The league with Spain took effect in May, 1587, thus incorporating the Roman cantons in the great Catholic alliance between the League in France, Philip II., Savoy, and the Curia. More than once the danger of civil war was imminent in Switzerland. But no blood was shed from that time, and the events of Reformation and Counterreformation went on side by side from the end of the sixteenth century.WALTER GOETZ.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. P. von Segesser, Rechtspeschichte der Stadt und Republik Luzern, vols. iii.-iv., Lucerne, 1857-1858; idem, Ludwig Pfyffer und seine Zeit, 3 vols., Bern, 1880-82; B. Hidber, Renward Cysat, in Archiv fur schweizerische Geschichte, vols. xiii., xx., Zurich, 1863, 1876; KL, iii. 1307-08.
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