Cyrus, King of Persia, was a great conqueror, and after having reduced nearly all Asia, he crossed the Euphrates, and laid siege to Babylon, which he took by diverting the course of the river which ran through it. The Jews, who had been carried away by Nebuchadnezzar on the destruction of the Temple, were then remaining as captives in Babylon. These Cyrus released 3466 AM., or 538 B.C., and sent back to Jerusalem to rebuild the house of God, under the care of Joshua, Zerubbabel, and Haggai.
Hence, from this connection of Cyrus with the history of Freemasonry, he plays an important part in the rituals of many of the advanced Degrees. But from late discoveries of inscriptions pertaining to Cyrus as mentioned in the excellent little London work called Fresh Light from the Ancient Monuments (pages 166-86), A. H. Sayce, M.A., it would appear that this king was a polytheist, and that he was not a king of Persia, although he acquired that country after his Conquest of Asiyages, 559 B.C., between the sixth and ninth years of Nabonidos. Cyrus was king of Elam. The empire he founded was not a Persian one; Darius, the son of Hystaspes, at a subsequent period, was the real founder of that kingdom. Professor Sayce continues: ''It was only as the predecessor of Darius, and for the sake of intelligibility. to the readers of a later day, that Cyrus could be called a king of Persia" (see Ezra1, 2).
The original words of his proclamation ''King of Elam,'' have been changed into the more familiar and intelligible "King of Persia." Elsewhere in the Bible (Isaiah xxi, 1-10), when the
invasion of Babylon is described, there is no mention of Persia, only of Elam and Media, the ancestral dominions of Cyrus. This is in strict accordance with the revelations of the monuments, and testifies to the accuracy of the Old Testament records.
Cyrus Dever besieged Babylon, a city fifteen miles square. It opened its gates to his general without battle, 538 B.C. The description by Herodotus belongs to the reign of Darius. Bosanquet asserts that the Darius of the Book of Daniel is Darius the son of Hystaspes.
Cyrus had learned that a disaffected conquer people imported into a kingdom was a constantly menace and danger, and he returned the Jewish exiles to Jerusalem to rebuild their city and be a fortress and check upon Egypt. The nations which had been brought from East and West were restored to their lands along with their gods. So it was with the captives of Judah. His dominions extended from the Hellespont almost to India. Cyrus was a worshiper of Merodach, originally the Sun-god, who is mentioned and intended by the name Bel, and Nebo, his prophet (see Isaiah xlvi, 1). His first act after acquiring Babylonia was to restore the Babylonian gods to their shrines, from which they has been removed by Nabonidos, and further asks for their intercession. The theory that Cyrus believed in but one supreme god--- Ormudz-must be abandoned. God consecrated Cyrus to be His instrument in restoring His chosen people to their land, not because the King of Elam was a monotheist, but because the period of prophecy, "ten weeks of years,'' was closing. These statements are made upon the authority of the three inscriptions among the clay documents lately discovered in Babylonia by Rassam, and translated by Sir Henry Rawlinson and Pinches. The first of these is a cylinder, inscribed by order of Cyrus ; the second a tablet, which describes the conquest of Babylonia by Cyrus; while the third is an account given by Nabonidos of his restoration of the temple of the Moon-god at Haran, and of the temples of the sun-god and of Anunit at Sepharvaim.
Cyrus ascended the throne 559 B.C., and was slain in battle against the Massagetae, 529 B.C. He was followed by Cambyses, his son, until 521 B.C., when he was succeeded by Smerdis, a Magian usurper, who reigned sev CZECHO-SLOVAKIA. en months. Darius I, son of Hystaspes, a nobleman, conspired with six others and murdered Smerdis, when, by device, Darius obtained the throne over his companions, 521 B.C. The celebrated siege of Babylon lasted two years; the city finally succumbed to the strategy of General Zopyrus, in the year 516.
Darius reigned 36 years, died 485 B.C. This article is mainly due to the industrious researches of Brother Charles T. McClenachan to whom the subject made an especial appeal (see also Zendavesta).
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