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This page is part of the "tools" section of a site, Plato and his dialogues, dedicated to developing a new interpretation of Plato's dialogues. The "tools" section provides historical and geographical context (chronology, maps, entries on characters and locations) for Socrates, Plato and their time. For more information on the structure of entries and links available from them, read the notice at the beginning of the index of persons and locations.
Cyrus, a Persian king of the Achemenides family, is considered the founder
of the Persian Empire, that he ruled from 559 to 530. Starting as the sovereign
of a relatively small country vassal of the Medes, he rebelled against them
and managed to subject them, then to conquer Lydia
and the cities along the coast of Asia Minor, and Babylon and Babylonia (539).
It is the Empire he built, enlarged by his son Cambyses
and structured and organized by Darius, which would
eventually try unsuccessfully to conquer Greece during the so-called Medean
Wars under the leadership first of Darius the Great, defeate at Marathon
in 490 (1st Medean War), then of his successors
Xerxes and Artaxerxes (2nd
Cyrus had the reputation of a good leader (he is the one praised in the Bible from having freed the Jews lead captives to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar), even among the Greeks. In his Histories, when comparing Darius to his predecessors, Herodotus says : "it is because of this fixing of tribute [by Darius] and other similar ordinances that the Persians called Darius the merchant, Cambyses the master and Cyrus the father ; for Darius made petty profit out of everything, Cambyses was harsh and arrogant, Cyrus was merciful and always worked for their well-being" (Histories, III, 89).
The story of Cyrus is told by Herodotus in the second part of book I of his Histories (I, 95-216).
In the Alcibiades, Plato has Socrates, reading young Alcibiades' mind, suggests that Cyrus is probably the only leader he would accept to take as a model (Alcibiades, 105d), while in the Laws, taking a more measured approach when analysing past history, he has the Athenian stranger try to explain the ups and downs of Persia from Cyrus to Cambyses to Darius to Xerxes (Laws, III, 694a-696b), looking into education as the root of the problem (in the Alcibiades, at 121d-122a Socrates draws an idealized picture of the education of a Persian king to try and motivate Alcibiades into accepting his tutoring).