Cyrus' last words


Cyrus' last words
by Jahanshah Javid

I wonder why Xenophon's Cyropaedia or The Education of Cyrus is rarely mentioned by Iranians. You don't see people quoting it. It's not on the Iranian radar. That's a bit strange given that anything about Cyrus seems to get a lot of attention to the point of gross exaggeration and false pride. I just finished reading the Kindle version of The Education of Cyrus and it was thoroughly fascinating beyond expectation. True, it's more a work of fiction than history but given that it was written in the early 4th century BC, and the author was present in Persia in a major way, it paints a revealing picture of the man and the time he lived in. I underlined many parts of the book, too many to quote here (on Persian habits, culture, education, war strategy, administration, slavery, women...), but I want to share what Xenophon describes as the last words spoken by Cyrus.

"My sons, and friends of mine, the end of my life is at hand: I know it by many signs. And when I am dead, you must show by word and deed that you think of me as happy. When I was a child, I had all the joys and triumphs of a child, and I reaped the treasures of youth as I grew up, and all the glories of a man when I came to man'e estate. And as the years passed, I seemed to find my powers grow with them, so that I never felt my old age weaker than my youth, nor can I think of anything I attempted or desired wherein I failed.

"Moreover, I have seen my friends made happy by my means, and my enemies crushed beneath my hand. This my fatherland, which was once of no account in Asia, I leave at the height of power, and of all that I won I think I have lost nothing. Throughout my whole life I have fared as I prayed to fare, and the dread that was ever with me lest in days to come I might see or hear or suffer evil, this dread would never let me think too highly of myself, or rejoice as a fool rejoices.  And if I die now, I leave my sons behind me, the sons the gods have given me; and I leave my fatherland in happiness, and my friends. Surely I may hope that men will count me blessed and cherish my memory.

"And now I must leave instructions about my kingdom, that there may be no dispute among you after my death. Sons of mine, I love you both alike, but I choose the elder-born, the one whose experience of life is the greater, to be the leader in council and the guide in action. Thus was I trained myself, in the fatherland that is yours and mine, to yield to my elders, my brothers or my fellow-citizens, in the street, or in the place of meeting, or in the assembly for debate. And thus have I trained both of you, to honour your elders and be honoured by those who are younger than yourselves. These are the principles that I leave with you, sanctioned by time, ingrained in our customs, embodied in our laws.

"The sovereignty is yours, Cambyses; the gods have given it to you, and I also, as far as in me lies; and to you, Tanaoxares, I give the satrapy over the Medes and the Armenians and the Cadousians, these three; and though I leave your elder brother a larger empire and the name of king, your inheritance will bring you, I believe, more perfect happiness than his. I ask myself what human joy will be lacking to you: all things which gladden the hearts of men will be yours—but the craving for what is out of reach, the load of cares, the restless passion to rival my achievements, the plots and counterplots, they will follow him who wears the crown, and they are things, be well assured, that leave little leisure for happiness.

"And you, Cambyses, you know of yourself, without words from me, that your kingdom is not guarded by this golden sceptre, but by faithful friends; their loyalty is your true staff, a sceptre which shall not fail. But never think that loyal hearts grow up by nature as the grass grows in the field: if that were so, the same men would be loyal to all alike, even as all natural objects are the same to all mankind. No, every leader must win his own followers for himself, and the way to win them is not by violence but by loving-kindness. And if you would seek for friends to stand by you and guard your throne, who so fit to be the first of them as he who is sprung from the self-same loins?

"Our fellow-citizens are nearer to us than foreigners, and our mess-mates dearer than strangers, and what of those who are sprung from the same seed, suckled at the same breast, reared in the same home, loved by the same parents, the same mother, the same father? What the gods have given to be the seal of brotherhood do not make of none effect yourselves. But build upon it: make it the foundation for other loving deeds, and thus the love between you shall never be overcome. The man who takes thought for his brother cares for his own self. For who but a brother can win glory from a brother's greatness? Who can be honoured as a brother can through a brother's power? Or who so safe from injury as the brother of the great? Let no one, Tanaoxares, be more eager than yourself to obey your brother and support him: to no one can his triumph or his danger come so near. Ask yourself from whom you could win a richer reward for any kindness. Who could give you stouter help in return for your own support? And where is coldness so ugly as between brothers? Or where is reverence so beautiful? And remember, Cambyses, only the brother who holds pre-eminence in a brother's heart can be safe from the jealousy of the world.

"I implore you both, my sons, by the gods of our fathers, hold each other in honour, if you care at all to do me pleasure: and none of you can say you know that I shall cease to be when I cease to live this life of ours. With your bodily eyes you have never seen my soul, and yet you have discerned its presence through its working. And have you never marked the terrors which the spirits of those who have suffered wrong can send into the hearts of their murderers, and the avenging furies they let loose upon the wicked? Think you the honours of the dead would still abide, if the souls of the departed were altogether powerless?

"Never yet, my sons, could I be persuaded that the soul only lives so long as she dwells within this mortal body, and falls dead so soon as she is quit of that. Nay, I see for myself that it is the soul which lends life to it, while she inhabits there. I cannot believe that she must lose all sense on her separation from the senseless body, but rather that she will reach her highest wisdom when she is set free, pure and untrammelled at last. And when this body crumbles in dissolution, we see the several parts thereof return to their kindred elements, but we do not see the soul, whether she stays or whether she departs.

"Consider," he went on, "how these two resemble one another, Death and his twin-brother Sleep, and it is in sleep that the soul of a man shows her nature most divine, and is able to catch a glimpse of what is about to be, for it is then, perhaps, that she is nearest to her freedom. Therefore, if these things are as I believe, and the spirit leaves the body behind and is set free, reverence my soul, O sons of mine, and do as I desire. And even if it be not so, if the spirit must stay with the body and perish, yet the everlasting gods abide, who behold all things, with whom is all power, who uphold the order of this universe, unmarred, unaging, unerring, unfathomable in beauty and in splendour. Fear them, my sons, and never yield to sin or wickedness, in thought or word or deed. 

"And after the gods, I would have you reverence the whole race of man, as it renews itself for ever; for the gods have not hidden you in the darkness, but your deeds will be manifest in the eyes of all mankind, and if they be righteous deeds and pure from iniquity, they will blazon forth your power: but if you meditate evil against each other, you will forfeit the confidence of every man. For no man can trust you, even though he should desire it, if he sees you wrong him whom above all you are bound to love.

"Therefore, if my words are strong enough to teach you your duty to one another, it is well. But, if not, let history teach you, and there is no better teacher. For the most part, parents have shown kindness to their children and brothers to their brothers, but it has been otherwise with some. Look, then, and see which conduct has brought success, choose to follow that, and your choice will be wise.

"And now maybe I have said enough of this. As for my body, when I am dead, I would not have you lay it up in gold or silver or any coffin whatsoever, but give it back to the earth with all speed. What could be more blessed than to lie in the lap of Earth, the mother of all things beautiful, the nurse of all things good? I have been a lover of men all my life, and methinks I would fain become a part of that which does good to man.

"And now," he added, "now it seems to me that my life begins to ebb; I feel my spirit slipping away from those parts she leaves the first. If you would take my hand once more, or look into my eyes while life is there, draw near me now; but when I have covered my face, let no man look on me again, not even you, my sons.

"But you shall bid the Persians come, and all our allies, to my sepulchre; and you shall rejoice with me and congratulate me that I am safe at last, free from suffering or sorrow, whether I am with God or whether I have ceased to be. Give all who come the entertainment that is fitting in honour of a man whose life on earth was happy, and so send them away.

"Remember my last saying: show kindness to your friends, and then shall you have it in your power to chastise your enemies. Good-bye, my dear sons, bid your mother good-bye for me. And all my friends, who are here or far away, good-bye."

And with these words he gave his hand to them, and then he covered his face and died.


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Thanks for your excellent blog JJ

by All-Iranians on

نور نگاه کورش بر بردگان بابل
بعد از هزارها سال در هگمتانه باقی ست
زیباست حرف باران در کوچه های تبریز
آواز مولوی هست تا یک چغانه باقی ست
دود اجاق وصلی کو در سفر بر افراشت
بعد از هزار منزل در بلخ و بانه باقی ست
در حیرتم که بعد از کشتار عشق اینک
در زیر سقف تاریخ عطر زنانه باقی ست
تازی وکینه توزی ، بخل وسیاه روزی
نفرین بر انکه عدلش با تازیانه باقی ست
عصر دگر بر آید این نیز هم سر آید
گر نیستت یقینی حدس و گمانه باقی ست
یغمائیان ربودند محصول عمر ما را
بشتاب و کشت میکن تا چند دانه باقی ست
افراط کرد و تفریط این ساربان گمراه
ای کاروان سفر خوش راه میانه باقی ست 

 علیرضا میبدی


مظهر آزادی


مظهر آزادی ما کوروش است 

آنکه نبی است نه‌ آدم کش است



Cyrus the younger? Who is

by vildemose on

Cyrus the younger? Who is he??

Persian civil war?? 

A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.--Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.


Just a side note

by Fesenjoon2 on

I believe Thomas Jefferson had a copy of the Cyropedia in his library.


What do Iranian kids learn at school?

by Farfromheaven2002 on

“...The key one is theocracy—government by priests or ayatollahs or the equivalent who claim to rule according to God’s law.  It works like this: God wants us to live according to his laws which have been written down as Holy Scripture like the Qur’an, the Torah, and the New Testament, whatever.  God inspired the Scriptures, so what they say are true....They—and only they have the correct interpretations.”

Fanatics, William Bell (Grade 8 text book at a Canadian school)  

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Thank you ShirOjan

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Thank you for setting some of the misconceptions right.

Regarding "general identity dissonance" I hope you are wrong. But unfortunately much unreliable information is getting passed around. Therefore it is no surprise that people get confused.  

One example of this is Xenophon and his writings.

Xenophon while providing some useful stuff mostly writes fiction. Taking his writings as history is like taking a TV drama of today as history. As you correctly pointed out Koroush did not have a "death bed" and actually died in battle. 

Really how many of people "know" their death is coming and write a long monologue before we get killed in battle! It does not make any logical sense. It is very possible that Xenophon was fluffing up his account. I don't imply he has bad intentions; just that he was doing what many do even today. Being a Greek polytheist would also influence and make him naturally think in terms of "Gods". This is by no means the only inaccuracy.

Thankfully there are fine academic works for anyone really interested. A wealth of new information including the Persepolis tablets is now available. From them a better picture of the real history is gained. One great resource is CAIS; there is also good research being done by Touraj Daryaee: //



After Cyrus it was all downhill...

by bahmani on

Jeez he sure had a lot to say on his deathbed, croak already!

Later after Kambiz took over, like most Iroonies, who are never content with what they've got, and have to go and ruin it for everyone, he started doubting his younger brother Bardia's intentions and coolness, and had him either killed or mysteriously disappeared.

Kambiz then mismanaged the empire and got over involved in Egypt, and so an imposter then posed as Bardia re-lived, and came back and gave everyone a huge 3-year tax break. "Somehow" Kambiz died in all this, and "Somehow" Darius I the son in law of Cyrusa dn husband of Atoosa, caught the Bardia-imposter, killed him, and took the throne.

Darius was OK for the most part, but died relatively young, from poor health, and his son Xerxes took over, leading to a bit part in the overly special affected film 300.

The moral of our story? With all the kings and disastrous empires we've had, especially including the one we have now under the monarchy of King Khamenei I, we can hopefully all agree now, that we would still have been better off with Democracy.

Maybe the lesson history is trying to teach us with all of these failed kings and kingdoms, is that we should try Democracy once, just to see how it fits our shape, and if we would like to wear it home.

I think Democracy would make us look positively sexy!

To read more bahmani posts visit: //


No, most Iranians and their King of Kings were monotheistic

by ShirOjan on

No offense to you Mr. J.J. and PLEASE do not take it personally because what I state here is just a general endemic National and Historical Identity Dissonance we all have to some degree or another - being a multi-ethnic nation. Yet, some casually ignore its importance for our National Survival, especially at this crucial time, when "divide and rule" strategy is forcefully  imposed from the outside,  are immense.


So sad that the ancient Iranian history books written by Iranians themselves were almost completely destroyed on purpose by those semi-savage andl savage invaders (Macedonians, Arabs, Mongols, and others) to keep the inheritors of the ideals of the greatest humanitarian king and empire clueless to their proud heritage to the point that today we have to resort to the ancient, and biased, enemy historians who more and less fictionalize our history to match the taste and prejudices of their Hellenic or Arab readers/customers.


Moreover how devastatingly compromised our Nationalism has become that we can't even remember what little we learned in our Iranian schools about our Greatest and the Wisest National Hero, Koorosh-e Bozorg, his life, religion and his death and for relearning what we should have known already we must refer to a semi-fiction by Xenophon and (Oh, let me stop grinding my teeeeeth!) Wikipedia. I personally, am so proud of our ancient history that even after living in California for almost 50 years, still remember the pages of our history books in school and, even then, I was always sad that it did not contain sufficient IRANIAN-sourced information.

No, most Iranians and their King of Kings were monotheistic (the very first people in the world) Zoroastrian and did not worship "the gods" as Xennie wrote, again making it acceptable to those pagan Hellenic barbarians who had the nerve to call Iranians/Persians "barbarians


This link is, by far, a better resource:



Cuneiform records from Babylon suggest that Cyrus died on 4 December 530BCE. However, according to Herodotus, Cyrus was killed near the Aral Sea in July or August 529BCE during a campaign to protect the north­eastern borders of his empire from incursions by the Massagetae.

Tomyris, the queen of the Massagetae, had assumed control of her nation’s forces after Cyrus had defeated and killed her son Spargapises. She led the attack on the Iranian forces, who suffered heavy casualties as well as losing their leader, Cyrus. After the battle, Tomyris apparently ordered the body of Cyrus to be found so that she could avenge the death of her son. She then dipped Cyrus’ head in blood or by some accounts ordered his head to be put into a wine-skin filled with human blood.

At Cyrus’ death, his son Cambyses II succeeded him. He attacked the Massagetae to recover Cyrus's ravaged body, before burying it at Pasargadae.

Cyrus' religion

Almost nothing is known about Cyrus’ personal beliefs, but Xenophon reports to us that in religious matters he followed the guidance of the Magians at his court. Although this is not universally agreed, Mary Boyce has argued that Cyrus was indeed a Zoroastrian and that he thus followed in the footsteps of his ancestors, from when they were Median vassals in Anshan. She has pointed out that the fire altars and the mausoleum at Pasargadae demonstrate Zoroastrian practices, and has cited Greek texts as evidence that Zoroastrian priests held positions of authority at Cyrus’ court.


Read it here

by alimostofi on

Read it here


FB: astrologer.alimostofi

Jahanshah Javid

Cyrus the Younger?

by Jahanshah Javid on

there's no mention of Cyrus the Younger in Wikipedia's entry on Cyropaedia. I know scholars hate Wikipedia, but hey... this is what it says: "it has been argued that Xenophon's Cyropaedia offers a glimpse of Cyrus' character. The source gives "an artist's portrait" of Cyrus as "the Ideal Ruler and the best form of Government", a description that "could not have been painted had there not been a credible memory of such a Cyrus".[4] Xenophon (c. 431 – 355 BC) was not a contemporary of Cyrus (c. 580 – 530 BC) and it is likely that at least some of the information about Persia was based on events that occurred at the later Achaemenid court. Xenophon had been in Persia himself, as part of the "Ten Thousand" Greek soldiers who fought on the losing side in a Persian civil war, events which he recounted in his Anabasis. It is also possible that stories of the great King were recounted (and embellished) by court society and that these are the basis of Xenophon's text."

Jahanshah Javid

Cyrus the Younger

by Jahanshah Javid on

Dr. of Iranian history Khodadad Rezakhani mentioned something important on Facebook about my post: "Cyropaedia really is not about Cyrus II (the Great), rather about Xenophon's patron, Cyrus the Younger, the brother of Artaxerxes II, who was killed in a rebellion against his elder brother. Xenophon is casting the younger Cyrus in the mould of his ancestor and namesake. This is the reason it is not taken that seriously!"

Mohammad Ala

If Cyrus could foresee . . .

by Mohammad Ala on

Or better yet, who translated these words?  Just a guess, it was not an Iranian.  If Cyrus could foresee what would happen to Iran....



by jamh on

Worthy of an episode of Game of Thrones all by itself.


Jj: i did mention Cyropaedia

by alimostofi on

Jj: i did mention Cyropaedia years ago


FB: astrologer.alimostofi