The article below originally composed on Kavehfarrokh.com on August 17, 2010, has been re-posted on February 14, 2017 due to the contemporary state of tumultuous international politics at the time of writing. This posting endeavors to highlight the 2500 year-old legacy of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Cyrus the Great built bridges between peoples and languages, endorsed cultural diversity and valued religious freedom. This resulted in the creation of the world’s first multi-lingual and multi-cultural empire. It is a remarkable fact that the founding fathers of the American Republic in 1776, who would write the US Constitution as we know it today, were fully cognizant of Cyrus’ legacy of benevolent governance 2500 years past. These lessons of history highlight the need to construct bonds of understanding between peoples, cultures and religions.
Cyrus II the Great (c. 590-530 BC) was the Achaemenid King of ancient Iran who liberated the Jews from their 70-year captivity after he overthrew the Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C. Cyrus ensured that the Jews would be able to return to Jerusalem.
Cyrus subsidized the Jewish revival at Jerusalem from state funds, a process that continued through his Achaemenid successors. The Jerusalem Temple and city walls were rebuilt.
With the fall of the Achaemenids in 333-323 BC came over 2500 years of sufferring for the Jews. Throughout their trials and tribulations in history, Jews have always looked to Cyrus as the symbol of the righteous gentile ruler who was also their saviour. Cyrus’ legacy would be evoked by name in the twentieth century, shortly after the Second Workd War.
Just months after he left the office of the President of the United States in November 1953, Harry S. Truman made made a remarkable statement to a number of Jewish dignitaries in New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary. Truman’s long-time associate, Eddie Jacobson, introduced Truman to the jewish dignataries stating “This is the man who helped create the State of Israel” .”Truman then exclaimed:
“What do you mean, ‘helped to create’? I am Cyrus. I am Cyrus“. Links: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/2008/issue99/7.30.html, http://www.hyperhistory.net/apwh/bios/b4trumanharry.htm#end4
Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) who was President of the United States in 1945-1953. Not only did he acknowledge the legacy of Cyrus the Great in liberating the Jews from their Babylonian captivity, he also stood up against Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who tried to absorb Iran’s Azarbaijan province into the Soviet Union.
The following quotes from the 2nd Isaiah (also known as the Deutero-Isaiah) clealry shows how the Jews regard Cyrus (note the consistency with chapters 40-55 of the book of Isaiah). Below are a few quotes:
‘I am the Lord, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself; (44.25)…Who says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ and to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid…(45.1) Thus says the Lord to His anointed