What motivation caused Cyrus The Great to establish the first known laws regarding to human rights?

So I’m just wondering how this came about. I know a few key things about this, first being that the Cyrus Cylinder or whatever is the first documented laws relating to human rights. Second, he apparently freed jewish slaves from babylon, and third he took control of one of the largest empires in human history. Now, what was the motivation here? Why would some guy who’s taking control of all this land give two shits about human rights? I imagine freeing slaves could have had it’s own interest, such being you get absolute gratitude from these people, and they’re likely to become your soldiers. Freedom of religion allows many people from many different cultures to come together in a central place, which appears to yield good growth for science and society, as such with modern world or the islamic golden age. But is this the only reasons why he actually created human rights? I’d imagine he had to have killed tons of people to create the archamenid empire. So despite books and religion depicting him as some Jesus like prophet who just did insane things for no reason, there must be a reason behind all his actions. It’s not like somebody just gets up and creates one of the largest empires in human history and creates the first recorded laws regarding to human rights.

He didn’t do those things, so… that explains it? The Cyrus Cylinder is merely typical Babylonian propaganda that has similarities to other such devices from earlier kings. It was likely a typical part of religious rites when a new king took over. The Bible tends to lionize Cyrus because the Jewish authors were currying favor.

Not even close to the oldest.

Well, as others noted, it was not original; and IMHO there had been a lot of past experiences showing early civilizations what worked and what did not work about the “proper”* way of conquering nations.

There was of course the older way that did go like: ‘Kill all, plunder, and take over’, but that does not work so well when there was the beginning of trade among nations or places with special know-how that the old conquerors wanted to keep. Like the Mongols and Romans found later too, letting the conquered nations to continue having their different faiths or cultures was more profitable in the long run (with taxes or tributes) rather than obliterating them.

So, Cyrus had IMHO very selfish reasons to respect all the faiths, and many other rights, among the nations he conquered.

  • Neil MacGregor - TEDGlobal 2011 - 2600 years of history in one object (A very fascinating talk about the Cyrus Cylinder)
  • “proper” considering how it was done in those days, it is clear that a lot of very nasty things were done by Cyrus too while he was making his empire.

It’s a piece of propaganda. Both from Cyrus and from the late Shah, in his case to hide the viciousness of his rule.

I’m just going to be a bit skeptical here because from my understanding not only is this guy mentioned in multiple religious documents, but he’s also referenced by the UN, and apparently taught in schools. Is there anything proving or disproving what he did and the empire he founded? Is it entirely fabricated and if not then what parts are exactly?

At the very least it’s safe to assume Alexander The Great’s name was inspired by Cyrus The Great because whoever believed he would establish an empire as large as cyrus’s. So if anything, was he at least a really good conqueror? I mean, if all the modern values that he apparently upheld were thrown out the window there still enough documentation to show he actually did control one of the largest empires even if he didn’t free a bunch of slaves, and established some human rights. I’m still skeptical but if you or anyone else can give me a bit more insight on this matter I’m open to any different views or opinions.

Nothing is fabricated, except maybe Cyrus’ reputation as a great humanitarian. He may have been relative to his time, but his time was nothing like ours and he was definitely a great propagandizer, so nothing can really be said for certain about his character. There are hints - Cyrus was reputed to be merciful to the rulers he overthrew. Croesus of Lydia purportedly was allowed to stay at his court as an advisor and there are similar( but possibly not quite contemporary )stories about Nabonidus of Babylonia.

When we had the ‘greatest ruler’ elimination game on this board some years back, Cyrus won. It is undeniable that starting from what was then a relative backwater, he essentially created one of the great classical civilizations in Persia, one that has endured down the ages as either a great power period or at the very least a regional one. He may be the only individual in history that has such an enduring claim to fame. Genghis Khan probably is a distant second, but Mongolia is a heck of a lot less relevant today.

He seems to have been a brilliant or at least very capable military commander. He seems to have been something of a political genius. He may also have had a huge helping of luck. He may have been a genuinely magnanimous or at the very least an extremely practical ruler - something that honestly can be a bit rare in conquerors. There is evidence to that, but at the very least it is clear he wanted to appear magnanimous and generous. However at a distance it is really, really hard to tell for sure.

He created a great empire, yes. Almost certainly. He was revolutionary humanitarian? Impossible to say. But as symbol of humanitarianism his propaganda has value, even it may have been a exaggeration.

I do see it as very similar to what took place with the American Revolution. The constitution and amendments were conceived by people that did follow the enlightenment (and Cyrus), but one can see that revolutionary documents are not a guarantee that all the people and citizens have the same rights. More than 100 years had to pass in America to see our civilization catch up to what the documents talked or implied about, and there is still some catch up to be done.

IIRC something similar took place when unrest took place when the Jews of Babylon returned to their lands only to find Samaritans that also believed that they had the original covenant with god.

By the time of Darius the decrees of Cyrus were found again, those that guaranteed that the Jews of Babylon could return to their former homeland and rebuild their temple. IOW, there was also a lag of implementation, or a lack of communication in letting all the people of the empire to know about the “fine” print of the new laws, or amendments that Cyrus was likely not a part of. Thanks to the might of the empire, different faiths and factions remained at relative peace with each other until Alexander [del]the grape[/del] :wink: came around.

One other issue that I think it should be mentioned: I notice that there could had been a very cynical move by Cyrus to use the newly freed people to help expand the empire too. Conquest is easier when the invaders have not only the hearts and minds of the groups they liberated, but the liberated groups have also the support of the coming overlords.