CYRUS ii. Cyrus I



i. Cyrus I

The evidence on the early Achaemenid king Cyrus I is as follows. Herodotus (1.111) attested that Cyrus the Great (see iii, below) was the son of Cambyses and grandson of Cyrus. Cyrus the Great himself claimed that he was “the son of Cambyses, the great king, king of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, the great king, king of Anshan, great-grandson of Teispes, the great king, king of Anshan” (see iv, below; l 20; Berger, p. 197). From Darius (DB I 3-6; Kent, Old Persian, pp. 116-17, rectifying Herodotus, 7.11) it is known that this Teispes was an Achaemenid king, son of Achaemenes and the father of two later kings: Cyrus I and Ariaramnes , great-grandfather of Darius I. A recent demonstration from the cuneiform texts that Anshan is to be identified with at least a part of Persis has led some scholars to reject the traditional view of the ancestry of Darius I as given here and to assert that Cyrus I could not have been the grandfather of Cyrus the Great or a brother of Ariaramnes and that the latter could not have been a king in Persis (de Miroschedji, pp. 265-304, with references; see ariyāramna), but none of these claims accords with the sources and what is known of the longevity of the Achaemenids. As Cyrus the Great was born in 600 b.c.e., lived seventy years (Dinon, Jacoby, Fragmente II p. 90 fr. 8), and died in 530 b.c.e., the dates of his forebears may be tentatively fixed (assuming thirty years to a genera­tion) as follows: Cambyses I, born ca. 630 b.c.e.; Cyrus I, born ca. 660 b.c.e.; Teispes, born ca. 690 b.c.e.; Achaemenes, born ca. 720 b.c.e.

There is no need to assume that Ariaramnes was a contemporary of Cyrus I; Teispes could have begotten him at age fifty years (in 640 b.c.e.), which would place the births of Arsames in 610 b.c.e., of Hystaspes in 580 b.c.e., and of Darius in 550 b.c.e. This last date is indeed confirmed by the report that when Cyrus the Great marched against the Massagetae in 530 b.c.e. Darius was “nearly twenty” (Herodotus 1.209). Further support for this conclusion can be found in a cuneiform text, the prism of Assurbanipal, on which two versions of his invasion and conquest of Elam in 639 b.c.e. are recorded. The Assyrian king claimed that many princes “of distant lands” had heard of his victories and had decided to acknowledge his overlordship; one of them was “Cyrus, King of (the land) of Parsumash,” who had sent his son Arukku to Nineveh with tribute (Weidner, p. 4; Thomp­son, pp. 86, 95). As Anshan was the Elamite province located in the plain of Bayżā in Fārs, it appears that Cyrus I was a Persian prince ruling over some locali­ties that included Anshan (D’yakonov, p. 349). His dates may thus be fixed between 650 and 610 b.c.e. Finally, a few seal impressions from the Persepolis Fortification tablets include representations of a hunt­ing scene and a combat scene accompanied by an Elamite inscription: “Cyrus the Anshanite, son of Teispes” (Hallock, 1977, p. 127; Hinz, pp. 53-54; de Miroschedji, pp. 285-87). There seems no reason to doubt that they are relics of Cyrus I, king of Anshan (the omission of the royal title has parallels in Achaemenid royal inscriptions; e.g., Kent, Old Per­sian, p. 154: “Says Darius [II] the King: This palace Artaxerxes, who was my father, previously built”; p. 157: “I am Darius” on a seal from Susa; cf. the mention of Cyrus the Great and his son in DB I 28).



P.-R. Berger, “Der Kyros-Zylinder mit dem Zusatzfragment BIN II Nr. 32 und die akkadischen Personennamen im Danielbuch,” ZA 64, 1975, pp. 193-234.

I. M. D’yakonov, Istoriya Midii (History of the Medes), Moscow and Leningrad, 1952.

R. T. Hallock, “The Use of Seals on the Persepolis Fortification Texts,” in M. Gibson and R. D. Biggs, eds., Seals and Sealing in the Ancient Near East, Bibliotheca Mesopotamica 6, pp. 127-33.

W. Hinz, Darius und die Perser I, Baden-Baden, 1976.

P. de Miroschedji, “La fin du royaume d’Anšan et de Suse et la naissance de l’empire perse,” ZA 75, 1985, pp. 265-306.

R. C. Thompson and M. E. L. Mallowan, “The British Museum Excavation at Nineveh 1931-32,” Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology (Liverpool) 20, 1933, pp. 86, 98.

E. F. Weidner, “Die älteste Nachricht über das persische Königshaus. Kyros I. ein Zeitgenosse Aššurbānipal,” Archiv für Orientforschung 7, 1931-32, pp. 1-7.

(A. Shapur Shahbazi)

Originally Published: December 15, 1993

Last Updated: November 10, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 5, p. 516