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Spiegel Magazine’s Attack on the Legacy of Cyrus the Great

Posted on Oct, 28, 2013
Contributed to WCHV by WCHV

Article By: Professor Kaveh Farokh


Greetings to the Distinguished Staff of Der Spiegel Magazine,
Recently a number of my colleagues as well as students have brought the following article to my humble attention:

UN Treasure Honors Persian Despot
By Matthias Schulz
http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/0,1518,564395,00.html (German)
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,566027,00.html (English)

If the above report had been written by ideologues, it would not have been very surprising, as historical revisionism and political motivations do often accompany one another. It is however lamentable that a distinguished world-class magazine such as Der Speigel has chosen to perpetuate a series of half-truths that resemble the writings of conspiracy theorists. I will of course expostulate upon the narratives of the latter on item (7) below, but first allow me to briefly examine a number of statements made by Mr. Schulz in items (1) – (6).

(1) “Some Greeks praised the conqueror. Herodotus and Aeschylus (who lived after Cyrus’s death) called him merciful.”

Perhaps Mr. Schulz is not aware that it was not just “Some Greeks” who praised Cyrus. This is true despite the fact that Classical Greece and the Achaemenid Empire fought many bitter and bloody wars, notably at Marathon (490 BC), Thermopylae and Salamis (480 BC). It is also a fact that the mainland (European) Greeks fought hard against the Achaemenid Empire to retain their independence. Why would a nation that had fought so hard against the Achaemenid Empire, have any reason to selectively “flatter” Cyrus the Great? This is because the Greeks, who excelled in the disciplines of balanced thought and logical thinking realized that just because they were at war with the Achaemenid Empire did not mean that all members and rulers of that Empire were “evil”. Simply put, they did not allow their political passions to bias their views of “the other”, even if that other was a military opponent. Nobody forced the ancient Greeks to describe Cyrus the Great in a favorable manner. The Greeks in fact had written a virtual compendium of Cyrus entitled the Cyropedia of Xenophon.

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