Macquarie University
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Can Cyrus speak?: Cyrus the Great and his reception from antiquity to the modern Iranian national-state

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posted on 2022-03-28, 10:35 authored by Natasha Parnian
The Achaemenid Persian King Cyrus the Great has been remembered as a model ruler in comparison with later despotic Achaemenid kings and as the liberator of Jewish people. More recently, he has been celebrated as a human rights icon, supposedly initiating the first charter of human rights. This idolised view has been appropriated by nationalist agendas of the Iranian state, drawing on a selective reading of ancient classical, Biblical and Near Eastern texts stressing his exceptional leadership. The ongoing attraction to Cyrus is reflective of the appropriation of European colonial scholarship of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by Iranian nationalists. Utilising a post- structuralist lens, this thesis examines the ancient texts of Herodotus, Xenophon, the books of Ezra and Isaiah and the influential Cyrus Cylinder, investigating the circumstances molding Cyrus' reputation from antiquity to the post-colonial era. This thesis reflects on the complicated representations of Cyrus as part of a broader problem connected to the reconstruction of the Achaemenid Persian; Cyrus' benevolence is routinely polarised against the popular perception of Persian decadence dominating popular perceptions today. By tracing Cyrus' reconstruction from antiquity to the modern Iranian nation-state, this thesis highlights how Iran's pre-Islamic past remains the stage on which ideas about the nation are debated and critiques the outdated discourses inherited and appropriated from Iran's encounter with Europe --summary.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter 1: Cyrus as constructed by the Greeks -- Chapter 2: Cyrus in Near Eastern context -- Chapter 3: Cyrus (re) enters Iran -- Conclusion -- Bibliography.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 76-93

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Arts

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Eva Anagnostou


Copyright Natasha Parnian 2019. Copyright disclaimer:




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