Cyrus the Great Builds the Persian Empire
by Governing With Toleration and Kindness
The greatest leaders in history often leave behind some sort of legacy. Cyrus the Great was the founder of the Persian Empire around 500 B.C., which was the largest empire of its time (Cyrus II, the Great). The empire stretched from ancient Iran, and grew to include an area reaching from Greece to India (Persian Empire). Cyrus’ reign saw some of the first contacts between Persia and Greece, and helped Persia gain the political power that had once been held by the people of Mesopotamia (Cyrus, the Great). Cyrus the Great proved to be an effective leader who developed a strong military that was stationed strategically throughout the empire to stop rebellions and keep trade routes safe, treated captives like the jews kindly, and implemented an organized administration of government that included satraps who governed locally.
Cambyses I, one of the earliest Achaemenid kings, ruled Persia around 600 B.C. Upon his death, his son Cyrus II took over as king in 559 B.C., and later became known as Cyrus the Great. As the ruler of Persia at the age of 41, Cyrus wanted to gain more power to strengthen the Persian Empire. He started by negotiating an alliance with the Babylonians against the Medes, who at this time were being ruled by Cyrus’ grandfather Astyages (Cyrus, the Great). Around 550 BC Astyages was worried that his grandson might be trying to form an alliance with his enemy Nabonidus, King of Babylon. Astyages called for Cyrus to come to him in the capital of Ecbatana to discuss the matter, but Cyrus would not (Pettman). With the support of the Babylonians, Cyrus led a revolt and defeated the Medes (Cyrus II, the Great). The Nabodinus Chronicle states that Cyrus was helped to win the battle by some of Astyages’ own soldiers. “Astyages mustered his army and marched against Cyrus, king of Anshan, for conquest...The army rebelled against Astyages and he was taken prisoner” (Cyrus II, the Great). Persia took over the Medes' kingdom, thus beginning the rise in power of the Persian Empire. Cyrus established a new capital at Pasargadae to commemorate his victory (Cyrus II, the Great).
Cyrus was very ambitious, so he continued to work on increasing his empire. In 547 B.C. he went to war against the wealthy King Croesus of Lydia and defeated him at the Battle of Ptyerum. He went on to capture the Greek city states along the coast of Anatolia. At this point Cyrus’ empire was 3,000 miles wide, but Cyrus was most interested in capturing Babylon because of the power and importance it represented. In 540 B.C., Cyrus set his sights on Babylon, which had been his ally up to that time. The people of Babylon were unhappy with King Nabonidus because he did not honor the God Marduk (Pettman). Without warning, the King left for Arabia, and in his ten-year absence left his son Belshazzar in charge. King Nabonidus eventually returned to Babylon in 543 B.C. and brought...