Tomb of Cyrus

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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The Tomb of Cyrus the Great (آرامگاه کوروش بزرگ) is the monument of Cyrus the Great approximately 1 kilometers southwest of the palaces of Pasargadae, dating back to as early as sixth century BCE.

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Overview

According to Greek sources, it dates back to 559-29 BCE The most extensive description based on a lost account by Aristobulus, who had accompanied Alexander the Great on his eastern campaign in the late 4th century BCE, is to be found in the Anabasis of Arrian (6.29). written in the 2nd century CE. The design of Cyrus' tomb is credited to Mesopotamian or Elamite ziggurats, but the cella is usually attributed to Urartu tombs of an earlier period. It's one of the most iconic buildings of the ancient world. But its function was forgotten.

Ancient Accounts

circa 530 BCE

Aristobulus (Circa 325 BCE)
According to the records by the ancient Greek historian, Aristobulus: "The tomb - in the lower parts was built of stones cut square and was rectangular in form. Above, there was a stone chamber with a roof and a door leading into it so narrow that it was hard and caused much distress for a single man of low stature to get through.

circa 530 BCE

Strabo (Circa 55 BCE)
Within the enclosure and by the ascent to the tomb itself there was a small building put up for the Magians who used to guard Cyrus’ tomb.” In the chamber lay a golden sarcophagus, in which Cyrus' body had been buried; a couch stood by its side with feet of wrought gold; a Babylonian tapestry served as a cover and purple rugs as a carpet. There was placed on it a sleeved mantle and other garments of Babylonian workmanship . . . Median trousers and robes dyed blue lay there: some dark, some of other varying shades, with necklaces, scimitars, and earrings of stones set in gold, and a table stood there. It was between the table and the couch that the sarcophagus containing Cyrus' body was placed. Strabo (15.3.7).

Rediscovery

circa 530 BCE

By the early 20th century, nobody was sure exactly where Cyrus had been buried and it wasn't clear where the former capital of his empire was. Ernst Herzfeld arrived in 1928 to begin mapping and photographing the city. He was the world's first professor of middle east archeaology. Herzfeld determined that the tomb was that of Cyrus, who had become a historical icon and a part of Iran's national identity.

Architecture

circa 530 BCE

Exterior
In particular, the tomb at Pasargadae has almost exactly the same dimensions as the tomb of Alyattes, father of the Lydian King Croesus; however, some have refused the claim (according to Herodotus, Croesus was spared by Cyrus during the conquest of Lydia, and became a member of Cyrus' court). The main decoration on the tomb is a rosette design over the door within the gable. The Mausoleum is said to be the oldest base-isolated structure in the world, meaning it is resilient to seismic hazards. It is one of the key cultural heritage destinations in Iran.

circa 530 BCE

Interior
The interior of the tomb is undecorated, except for a few inscriptions, and a mehrab (inspect) that was installed after the Muslim conquest of Persia. When Alexander looted and destroyed Persepolis, he paid a visit to the tomb of Cyrus. Arrian, writing in the second century CE, recorded that Alexander commanded Aristobulus, one of his warriors, to enter the monument. Inside he found a golden bed, a table set with drinking vessels, a gold coffin, some ornaments studded with precious stones and an inscription on the tomb, though none of it survived in to the modern era.

Connection with the Biblical Narrative

circa 530 BCE

Both the Christian and Jewish bibles laud him for issuing the Edict of Restoration. After years during which many Jews were kept as captives in Babylon, Cyrus captured Babylon, gave them their freedom and allowed them to return home. For this act, he is the only non-Jew in Jewish scripture who is referred to as 'messiah' or 'His anointed one' (Cyrus is presumed by many scholars to have been a Zoroastrian but it isn't clear that he followed any particular religion). Yet somehow, both the city and the tomb were essentially misplaced. The buildings and gardens fell into disrepair and crumbled. The mausoleum remained standing but locals eventually became confused about who was buried in it. “The tomb was known as that of the mother of Solomon,” says Farhad.

Festival of Cyrus the Great

circa 530 BCE

Cyrus the Great Day (Persian: روز کوروش بزرگ ruz-e kuroš-e bozorg), also simply known as Cyrus Day (Persian:روز کوروش ruz-e kuroš), is an unofficial holiday in Iran that takes place annually at the site of the tomb of Cyrus on October 29th, 7th of Aban on Iranian calendar, to commemorate Cyrus the Great. That is the anniversary of the entrance of Cyrus into Babylon. Cyrus is founder of the first Persian Empire also known as Achaemenid Empire.

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