Cyrus the Great

Lendering’s widely read website,, promotes a negative view of Cyrus the Great:


``…played an important role in the imperial propaganda of Shah Mohammad Reza Palavi who in 1971 used it as symbol of the celebration of what he called the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian monarchy. A copy was given to the United Nations. The Shah tried to prove that the secular Iran with religious freedom that he wanted to promote had existed before, and in this context, the Cyrus Cylinder has been called the "world's human rights charter". This interpretation ignores the stereotypical nature of the document.



Interestingly. Lendering’s review against Farrokh’s text repeatedly states that the history of Cyrus the Great and his benevolence in history is simply the “Shah's propaganda”. In the strictest sense, this is untrue: Lendering is ignoring the established historiography on the subject and his views can be summarily challenged by consulting a handful of world-class scholars on the subject.


The late Professor Max Von Mallowan stated that:


Religious toleration was a remarkable feature of Persian rule and there is no question that Cyrus himself was a liberal-minded promoter of this humane and intelligent policy

[Max Von Mallowan. Cyrus the Great. In Cambridge History of Iran (Volume 2: The Median and Achaemenean Periods), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp.392-419.]


The late Professor Will Durant noted that:


   "The first principle of his [Cyrus the Great] policy was that the various peoples of his empires would be left free in their religious worship and beliefs, for he fully understood the first principle of statesmanship - that religion is stronger than the state. Instead of sacking cities and wrecking temples he showed a courteous respect for the deities of the conquered, and contributed to maintain their shrines, even the Babylonians who had resisted him so long, warmed towards him when they found him preserving their sanctuaries and honoring their pantheon. Wherever he went in his unprecedented career he offered pious sacrifice to the local divinities. Like Napoleon he accepted indifferently all religions, and-with much better grace-honored all the gods."
[Durant, Will (1942) The Story of Civilization:(Part One): Our Oriental Heritage. New York: Simon & Shuster..pp.353].


Professors David E. Graf, Steven W. Hirsch, Kathryn Gleason, and Friedrich Klefter have noted that:


Cyrus administered his expanded realm with the same tact and generosity that distinguished his moments of victory. Wherever possible he kept local governments in place, demanding only a pledge of fealty and tribute. Even as king of Babylonia he rested his hand lightly on the instruments of power. In the Greek cities of Ionia, he supported local rulers who were compliant with his imperial designs. In most cases he displayed a remarkable tolerance for local customs and institutions

[Phillips, Ellen (Editor) (1988). A Soaring Spirit: 600-400 BC. Amsterdam, Holland: Time-Life Books. In Graf, Hirsch, Gleason, & Klefter, Chapter One: Persia at the Crest, pp.17, 20]


Professor T. Cuyler Young Jr. has noted that:


Because of the religious, ethnic and social tolerance with which the Achaemenids chose to rule, one cannot speak of an imperial social structure. Earlier attempts at empire in ancient West Asia had been anything but tolerant. Why therefore were the Achaemenids so different? The answer to the question is two-fold: on the one hand, tolerance was a realistic policy. Given the size and diversity of their empire, probably no other approach would have worked. On the other hand, such a policy probably fitted their own idealized traditions of social structure…”

[Cotterell, A. (Editor) (1993). Classical Civilizations. Middlesex, England: Penguin Books. In Young, The Achaemenids (559-330 BC), pp.160]


Professor Arthur Cotterell has noted that:


“…the Persian respect for the religious sensibilities of a subject people [the Jews] shown in the edict [Cyrus’ proclamation on behalf of the Jews in the book of Ezra] contrasts sharply with the Hellenizing policies of the later Seleucid Dynasty (312-64 BC) which gave rise to the Maccabean revolt.

[Cotterell, A. (1998). The Pimilco Dictionary of Classical Civilizations: Greece, Rome, Persia, India and China. London, England: Pimilco. In pp.120-121]


As noted by the late Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau:


He [Cyrus the Great] can be said without fear of contradiction to rank amongst the five of six greatest leaders of humanity [p.31] Although Babylon had been taken it was not looted or burnt. Cyrus did not destroy the walls or remove the gates [p.43]… Under his [Cyrus the Great] regime, which did not differentiate between classes or religions, the Jews were treated in exactly the same way as anyone else [p.47]”.

[De Gobineau, J.A. (1971). The World of the Persians. Geneva, Switzerland: Editions Minerva, pp. 31, 43, 47].


As noted by the late Professor G. Buchanan Gray:


Making all allowance for the natural bias in Cyrus’ own inscriptions, and for the Nabonidus-Cyrus Chronicle written and completed after his success was achieved and he had become king of Babylon, it is clear that Cyrus obtained the throne and empire of Babylon with the acquiescence, not to say on the invitation, of a large part of the population. He cam to free them from a ruler who had forfeited their adhesion: he accepted the throne as the gift of their own god Marduk [p.12] …He was the founder of a new dynasty over a willing people, not a foreign conqueror indifferent to them and their interests [p.12-13]…Cyrus immediately reversed the religious policy of Nabonidus, which had provoked great resentment, and in other respects in his attitude to the Babylonian gods he put himself right with the people. Whereas Nabonidus…had gathered into the capital the images of the gods of from various outlying temples…Cyrus sent back the gods and human beings, also who had been exiled, to their cities and re-established them there. Among the districts to which he sent back the gods were Western Elam…[p.13]  ”.


[Buchanan, G, (1964). The Cambridge Ancient History: IV. The Persian Empire and the West (Edited by Bury, J.B., Cook, S.A., & Adcock, F.E.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. In Gray, Chapter One: The Foundation and Extension of the Persian Empire, pp. 12-13].


As noted by Professor Michael Axworthy:


…without romanticizing Cyrus unduly, it seems he has aspired to rule an empire different from others that had preceded it in the region. Portentous inscriptions recording the military glory of kings and the supposed favour of their terrible war-gods were commonplace in the Middle east in the centuries preceding Cyrus’ ascension [p.12]… the message of the Cylinder [Cyrus Cylinder] particularly when combined with what is known of Cyrus’ religious policy from the books of Ezra and Isaiah, is nonetheless remarkable [p.13]... Cyrus chose to present himself showing respect to the Babylonian deity, Marduk…we know that he [Cyrus the Great] permitted freedom of worship to the Jews [p.14]…Cyrus and his successors permitted them [the Jews] to return home from exile and to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. For these acts they [Achaemenid rulers] were accorded in the Jewish scriptures a unique status among gentile monarchs [p.15]…the logic of statecraft alone might have suggested that it would be more sustainable in the long run to let subjects conduct their own affairs and worship as they pleased. But that policy had to be acceptable to the Iranian elite, including the priests – the Magiit is reasonable to see in the policy some of the spirit of moral earnestness and justice that pervaded the religion of Zoroaster. The presence of those values in the background helps to explain why the Cyrus Cylinder is couched in such different terms from the militaristic thunder and arrogance of Sennacherib. The old answer was terror and a big stick, but the Persian Empire would be run in a more devolved, permissive spirit. Once again, an encounter with complexity, acceptance of the complexity, and a response. This was something new. [p.15]”.


[Axworthy, M. (2008). A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind. New York: Perseus Book Group, pp. 12-15].


The above are only a handful of the citations available. There is in fact a very long tradition of academic research, archaeology and historiography pertaining to Cyrus and his policies. Some other examples include:


·        8 of 12 business documents Achaemenid business documents found at Ur written during Cyrus’ reign ensuring that the state would promote already existing commerce in the area (R.P. Dougherry, 1933. Archives from Erech Neo-Babylonian to Persian Periods. pp.34, no. 102. no.92, 101, 109).

·        Restoration of the Temple of Nanna at Ur during the reign of Cyrus (Antiquities Journal, III, no.4, Oct.1923, p.315, pl, XXV)

·        Cyrus contributed to upkeep of E-Anna in Uruk (Smith, George, 1873, TSBA (Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology,II, pp.148; Weisbach, (1911). Die Kielenschriften der Achaemenden, pp.8-9).


Professors Mallowan, Durant, Graf, Hirsch, Gleason, Klefter, Young, Cotterell, de Gobineau, Gray, Axworthy, Smith, Weisbach, etc. never worked for the Shah’s regime nor do any of them hail from Iran. Lendering and Schulz’s attempts at dismissing this historiography as “Shah Propaganda”, is patently unconvincing, and irrational. Lendering is also cunning: he deliberately avoids mention of such citations as these would seriously undermine the revisionist views that Schulz and himself are attempting to promote.


This leads to an interesting question: why does the Schulz-De Quetteville-Lendering campaign so vociferously demand that this part of Iran’s history be suppressed and censored?


Lendering has in fact been working for some time to introduce his selective views of Cyrus into Wikipedia. Note the statement he makes in Wikipedia below:

I think the family tree is fine; and I've improved the year of Cyrus' death. I wonder if we shouldn't include something on modern propaganda in the Cyrus Cylinder article like I included at my own page (here? Jona Lendering 21:35, 22 December 2006 (UTC)”


This may partly explain why Lendering’s attacks against Farrokh’s book (and character) have been so intense. Below is a quote by Lendering in his review of Farrokh’s second text:


The strangest inclusion [by Farrokh] is the Cyrus Cylinder, a document from Babylon in which the great conqueror presents himself as the ideal king: chosen by the supreme god, he restores order, repairs buildings, allows exiles to return home, and redresses malpractices. In the past, this text - which is absolutely topical - has been taken as evidence for Cyrus' illuminated policy, especially by the government of Mohammad Reza Shah, who even called it "the world's first human rights charter". Farrokh repeats this propaganda verbatim on page 44, apparently unaware of the extensive secondary literature on the subject… sponsored by a government that wanted to present Cyrus the Great as an ideal, secular leader. (When Mohammad Reza Shah offered a copy of the Cyrus Cylinder to the United Nations, he added a translation from which all religious references were left out.)

Lendering has used the internet to promote his anti-Cyrus theories. Dismissing the established scholarship on Cyrus, Lendering (in his Note 13 against Farrokh) makes the accusation that Wikipedia users who challenge his views are:

trying to introduce the Shah's propaganda about Cyrus to the Wikipedia.

Thanks to the recent articles by Spiegel Magazine and the Daily Telegraph, Lendering’s views in article have now been inserted into the history of Cyrus’ Cylinder on Wikipedia:

Cyrus Cylinder

Interestingly this has occurred right after the Spiegel/Daily telegraph articles on July15-21:

“The type and formulation of the cylinder was typically Babylonian and stands in a Mesopotamian tradition, dating back to the third millennium BC, of kings making similar declarations of their own righteousness when beginning their reigns”

Referenced to Note 19 in the Wikipedia article which links to:

Another revisionist view on that Wikipedia link states that:

The notion of the cylinder as a "charter of human rights" has been criticized by a number of scholars and characterized as political propaganda on the part of the Pahlavi regime

Referenced to Note 27: Amélie Kuhrt, "The Cyrus Cylinder and Achaemenid imperial policy" in Journal of Studies of the Old Testament 25, p. 84;  Lendering, Jona (2007-01-28). "The Cyrus Cylinder". Retrieved on 2008-07-30.

Note that Lendering has been cited as a source again and that the citation was added on June 30, just 2 weeks after Spiegel’s article and 9 days before the Daily Telegraph article.

Thanks to the initiative of Spiegel/Daily telegraph and the active efforts of Lendering, other revisionist views have entered into the Wikipedia link regarding the Cyrus Cylinder. One such view labels the Cylinder as:

“…the product of pre-conquest Persian propaganda

Referenced to Note 27: Simon J. Sherwin, "Old Testament monotheism and Zoroastrian influence", in The God of Israel: Studies of an Inimitable Deity, p. 122. Robert P. Gordon (ed). Cambridge University Press, 2007. ISBN 0521873657

These views are entering Wikipedia discussion groups as well:

This so-called "charter of free rights" is nothing but a clever piece of propaganda by Cyrus, which in modern times was resurfaced by some politicians with own agendas. Unfortunately, even the UN has allowed themselves to be fooled into this. Subsequently the view of the text as a "charter of human rights" has been proliferated further by people without knowledge of the historical context. Nevertheless, from a historical point of view, it isn't justified at all. (talk) 17:33, 8 July 2008 (UTC)

FALLING FOR ANCIENT PROPAGANDA. Article from Spiegel Online, enjoy. --Friðrik Bragi Dýrfjörð (talk) 02:03, 20 July 2008 (UTC)

Lendering’s arguments, like Schulz and de Quetteville, are generally weak because they:


a] pretend that the established historiography and archaeological finds pertaining to Cyrus studies can be dismissed with speculation


b] attempt to downplay the role of Greek, Babylonian and Biblical references


c] attempt to discredit those (i.e. Farrokh) who disagree with him    


Of greater concern however is that the Schulz-De Quetteville-Lendering views on Cyrus the Great are nearly identical to the conspiracy theories of pan-Islamic ideologies and anti-Cyrus fanatics (witness their acts of vandalism in Item 3).  The history of Cyrus the Great is viewed with considerable disdain by a select number of pan-Islamic ideologues, many of whom have described Cyrus as:

“…a tyrant, a liar…"

Molavi, A., pp.14, 2005, in The Soul of Iran, Norton.

This is the same view of Cyrus that has been presented in the aforementioned Spiegel and Daily Telegraph publications. Like the distinguished papers, and pan-Islamic ideologues, Lendering believes that the history pertaining to Cyrus the Great’s benevolence is “imperial propaganda of Shah Mohammad Reza Palavi

The followers of pan-Islamism continue to vigorously fund, support and perpetuate the publications of Nasser Pourpirar, a man who believes that the entire history of ancient Iran, including Cyrus the Great to be a “hoax” that has been “…invented by Zionists, Americans the University of Chicago”. For more information, please consult:

Below is Pourpirar’s website which fully reveals his views:

Nasser Pourpirar (a fanatic anti-Semite) believes that the entire history of Cyrus the Great as well as Alexander the Great is a hoax that has been invented by the Jews and the Americans. From a purely technical standpoint, Lendering’s opinions on Cyrus the Great are in full agreement with pan-Islamic ideologues such as Nasser Pourpirar.