Today is international Cyrus the Great day – mark your calendar.
Cyrus the Great (c. 600 BC-536 BC) was the founder of the Persian Empire, which ultimately spanned three continents and included the modern countries of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Macedonia, parts of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Syria and the major cities of Egypt.
His capital was Pasargadae, just west of Persepolis, and that is where archaeologists found a column inscribed with this carved into the marble: ‘I am Cyrus the king, an Achaemenid.’ (Achaemenid was his dynasty.)
First, Cyrus conquered the Medes, then the Lydians, then the Babylonians. Each time, he allowed the subjugated peoples to retain their culture and language, and in the case of Babylonia, he freed the captive Jews and allowed them to return to their own province. In Hebrew, he is known as Koresh.
So, historically, he is considered a benevolent tyrant. One of the few written sources of information about Cyrus is shown – it looks kind of like a loofah, but it is called the Cyrus Cylinder. It is clay, inscribed in Akkadian cuneiform and it describes how bad the Babylonian king was and what a good ruler Cyrus is, repatriating refugees and restoring temples and sanctuaries.
Sounds like propaganda, but it provides an opportunity to use a picture of the Ishtar gate, the eighth gate of Babylon that led to the inner city. The Ishtar gate is in the Berlin Museum. Normally, the theft of national treasures by archeologists is disturbing, but not in this case. Far down the list of recent tragedies in the Near East – but a tragedy nonetheless – is the fate of the many outstanding archaeological sites in what is still called the birthplace of civilization.
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Many happy returns to Dan Castellaneta – where would Homer Simpson be without him? And Robert Hardy celebrates his 85th birthday today. He is one of that core group of actors who have been a mainstay of British television from the early days. He is probably most familiar to Americans as Siegfried Farnon, the vet in All Creatures Great and Small or Sir John Middleton in Sense and Sensibility or Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter series, but his career goes back to his role as David Copperfield in a tv mini-series in 1956. Thanks for all the good work, Mr. Hardy.