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Cyrus the Great



Cyrus the Great
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 8 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.21

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    maternal, sacked, co-exist, invincible, visionary, needless, dynasty, subdue, present-day, benevolent, steward, nightmare, prominent, avenge, biological, reign
     content words:    Julius Caesar, Cyrus II, Neo-Babylonian Empire, Those Jewish, Gentile Messiah, Indus River, Aegean Sea, Cyrus Cylinder


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Cyrus the Great
By Vickie Chao
  

1     A long time ago -- centuries before Alexander and Julius Caesar came along -- there was one powerful Persian ruler whose empire was the biggest the world had yet seen. That ruler's name was Cyrus II or Cyrus the Great.
 
2     Cyrus was born some time between 590 B.C. and 580 B.C. According to Herodotus, a famous Greek historian, Cyrus came from a very prominent family. His father, grandfather, great grandfather, and great great grandfather were all chieftains of Anshan, a small kingdom in present-day southwestern Iran. One day, Astyages, Cyrus' maternal grandfather who also happened to be the King of the Medes, had a dream that his reign would be cut short by Cyrus. Horrified by the prospects, he ordered his steward, Harpagus, to fetch the infant and kill him. Harpagus did not want to commit the crime, so he gave the baby to a shepherd by the name of Mitradates. Mitradates did not want to do it, either, so he kept Cyrus and raised him as his own son. Nearly a decade later, Astyages found out that Cyrus was still alive. Needless to say, he was furious! In a rage, he slew Harpagus' son and made Harpagus eat the flesh. As for Cyrus, the King of the Medes decided to drop the matter and let the young boy go back to live with his biological parents. At the time, he thought that he had everything under control. He had no idea that Harpagus was extremely angry with him. Vowing to avenge his son's death, Harpagus patiently waited for Cyrus to grow up so, in time, he could persuade him to revolt.
 
3     In around 550 B.C., nine years after Cyrus ascended the throne of Anshan, Astyages' worst nightmare came true. That year, Cyrus sacked the capital city of the Medes, deposed his grandfather, and brought the once invincible empire to its knees. From that point on, he began a series of military expansions. Wherever he went, victory usually followed. In 546 B.C., Cyrus defeated Lydia. In 539 B.C., he conquered the Neo-Babylonian Empire and became the new master of Mesopotamia. Upon entering Babylon, he released all the Jewish prisoners and allowed them to return to their homeland. Those Jewish prisoners were taken as captives after the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 587 B.C. For almost fifty years, they were forced into exile and denied the chance of ever seeing Jerusalem again. Fortunately, the arrival of Cyrus changed all that. For the first time, they had their freedom back and could go where they pleased. This particular event, plus Cyrus' returning the items that Nebuchadnezzar had looted from the Temple, was recorded in the Bible. Such compassionate gestures made Cyrus the only Gentile Messiah in the eyes of Jews.

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