The Edmond Sun

October 15, 2013

Cyrus the Great reached out to differing faiths

William F. O'Brien
Special to The Sun

OKLA. CITY — Farzin Rezaeian is a scholar and documentary filmmaker based in Canada  who has made several films that chronicle the 7,000-year history of Iranian civilization. He gave a presentation last week at the Turkish Raindrop House on Classen Boulevard in Oklahoma City that included a showing of his most recent movie “Pasargadae, Cyrus The Great’s Paradise.”

Cyrus was the King who built the Persian Empire that ruled much of the known world in what is now Iran in the Third Century B.C. He constructed his capital Pasargadae with waterways, gardens and fruit trees. It’s name was translated into the word “Paradise” by the Greeks who wrote about Cyrus and his empire.

The film documented how a group of scholars from France, Iran and the United States have created a an image of Pasargadae by using geo-magnetic imaging and information gathered by archaeologists. A rendering of the hall where Cyrus and his family received dignitaries from his Empire is shown, as are images of the unearthed trumpets that were used to herald the arrival of visitors to Pasargadae.

The surprisingly modern-looking gold ornaments including earrings that were found there were included as well. The large gardens that greeted those visitors are also shown and it is explained that they inspired some of the royal gardens in European and Asian kingdoms that were built many centuries later.   

And the film detailed how after Cyrus conquered Babylon he ordered that the  people who were held captive there — including the Israelites — be freed and allowed to return to their homelands. The Persian King is mentioned 22 times in the Old Testament and is praised in the Book of Ezra as a wise and humane leader for freeing the Israelites from bondage.

It is believed that he is also referenced in the Koran.

The British Museum in London, England, is home to what is known as the Cyrus Cylinder that was unearthed by a British archeologist in 1879. That document includes a proclamation issued by Cyrus after he captured Babylon in which he states that all of the people of differing faiths in Babylon can live in peace there under his rule.   

Several students of ancient history are featured in the film and explain how Cyrus created the first multi-cultural and multi-faith civilization in which the laws and customs of all people were respected.  

A replica of the Cyrus Cylinder was presented by Iran in 1971 to the United Nations and is now in the U.N. headquarters in New York City. The recently installed President of Iran, Hossan Rouhani, surprised the world by issuing a Tweet message last month that read “As the sun is about to set here in Tehran, I wish all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah.”  

And future historians may see in that statement a reflection of the strain of tolerance that is found in Iran that was put in place by Cyrus the Great.

WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.