Can Cyrus speak?: Cyrus the Great and his reception from antiquity to the modern Iranian national-state
thesisposted 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highlights how Iran's pre-Islamic past remains the stage on which ideas about the nation are debated and critiques the outdated discourses inherited and appropriated from Iran's encounter with Europe --summary.