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The tomb of Cyrus the Great

The Possible Origins of the Early Persian Kings: Inscriptions Reveal a Pattern - Part II

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Cyrus I of Anshan

Cyrus I was the second king of Anshan and son of Teispes. The name Cyrus in Old Persian is Kurush; in Elamite, Kurash; in Akkadian, Kuraha (u); and in Hebrew, Koresh. Cyrus I is said to have reigned from 640-600 BCE. The name of Cyrus will be of interest. The name Cyrus seems to be connected to the name Kuru. The name Kuru was also the name of a tribe that are said to be of Saka stock and were connected to Kambojas tribe, which were Saka as well.

Drawing of seal of Cyrus I from Anshan.

Drawing of seal of Cyrus I from Anshan. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Cyrus I was also the son of Teispes as indicated on a seal written in Elamite,

“Cyrus of Anshan, son of Teispes.”

The image on the seal shows Cyrus on horseback with a spear in hand killing the enemy before him while his horse tramples upon their dead bodies. The interesting thing about this image is that he appears to be dressed in Scythian attire. The helmet he is wearing looks Scythian, for it has a tight fit to the skull and may possibly have cheek pieces and the back of the neck appears to be covered. In-addition, the clothes worn by Cyrus look tight-fitting to his body.

Scythian warriors, drawn after figures on an electrum cup from the Kul'Oba kurgan burial near Kerch.

Scythian warriors, drawn after figures on an electrum cup from the Kul'Oba kurgan burial near Kerch. ( Public Domain )

The trousers have a tight look to them and so does the shirt, which looks long-sleeved as well. The tight-fitting clothing, which he is wearing, was a common style for some Scythian warriors. However, the image depicting Cyrus is not that clear, but what could be made out seems to be Scythian-influenced in terms of dress. Besides the seal and inscription depicting Cyrus, the only other inscriptions bearing his name is the Cyrus the Great Cylinder and the Behistun Inscription. However, Cyrus I is mentioned also in an Assyrian inscription around 639 BCE during the thirtieth year of Ashurbanipal’s rule of Assyria. The inscription reads:

Kurash, the king of the land of Parsumash, heard of the mighty victory which I obtained over Elam with the aid of Assur, Bel, and Nebo, the great gods, my lords, (and that) I hurled over the whole of Elam as a flood. He sent Arukka, his oldest son, with his tribute to serve as a hostage in Nineveh, my residence, and to implore my lordship.

Some have suggested that there may have been two men named Cyrus. One Cyrus was king of Anshan and the other Cyrus was king of Parsumash in the Assyrian inscription. However, it seems both men are one and the same. For Cyrus I could have been king of both Parsumash and Anshan at the same time. The reason for this is that the province of Parsumash/Parsa – or modern-day Fars – has been associated with Anshan. Both places are said to be interchangeable names for the same province. However, King Sennacherib of Assyria mentions both places as separate in the Taylor Prism.

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Top Image: The tomb of Cyrus the Great (CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Cam Rea

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