Cyrus the Great Art of War Simplified For students, and teachers

Introduction

Achaemenid was the first leader of one of many important Persian tribes settling around modern-day Iran from 705BC up until 675 BC. Although Persia became a very important empire in Ancient military history, it became so by rebelling from the Median Empire and subsequently conquering Egypt, Israel, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and even parts of Greece.

The Persians settled and from the city of Persis which would become the capital of the Persian Empire in later years. The Medes Empire was a very powerful Empire that ruled all of Cappadocia, Assyria, Bactria, and Armenia.

Cyrus the Great Art of War Simplified
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Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great 559-530 BC

Prologue

The Persians were a vassal Kingdom to the Median Empire for several hundred years. However, the most important Persian King Cyrus the great soon rebelled against his overlords. Cyrus overpowered the Median Empire with sheer military force. Cyrus the Great was a straight descendant of the legendary Achaemenid and founder of the Achaemenid dynasty of the Achaemenid Empire.

Cyrus the Great was arguably the greatest King of the rising Persian Empire. He managed to conquer the entire Median Empire, the Lydian Empire, and the Babylonia Empire in just a few years.¹ Cyrus managed to conquer and expand his empire due to the innovations he brought to the battlefield.

Cyrus Art of War

Cyrus brought changes to the way Persian art of war. He influenced the Persian armies for years to come. According to Warfare in the Ancient World, every military victory and territorial conquest came with numerous new military technologies and military units.

Cyrus the Great Art of War Simplified
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Cyrus Art of War

Furthermore, this was huge considering that many ancient kingdoms separated themselves from foreign cultures, or even massacred the entire populations of conquered cities. The Medians and other Babylonian states are not tolerant and imposed the conquerors’ will.

Religious Tolerance

Cyrus showed leniency in his conquests. He, “ …have given leave to as many of the Jews that dwell in my country as please to return to their own country, and to rebuild their city, and to build the temple of God at Jerusalem on the same place where it was before”.² Cyrus allowed the Jewish people to worship, and build their temples freely, something unlikely in ancient times.

We see how lenient was Cyrus towards many cultures, especially the Jewish community who traditionally suffered much at the hands of foreign rulers. In addition, the Jewish community mentioned king Cyrus in their writings several times. They considered him as a savior, the restorer of the Jewish temple and the Jewish state.

Military Innovations

Another innovation made by Cyrus on the Persian military was the focus on heavy cavalry and the modification of the Infantry type “Sparabara”.³ The Sparabara served as flexible, and powerful spearmen. 

Persian Empire Sparabara
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Persian Empire Sparabara Infantrymen

The Persian Infantrymen protecting the archers were now armed with long spears to better defend the vulnerable archers, this made the Archers combined with Spear bearing infantrymen extremely dangerous on the battlefield. 

Cyrus the Great was a very cunning tactician. Therefore, he knew that to expand his empire and leave a footnote on the world he needed to change the Persian art of war.

Hence, “Until the rise of Cyrus, the Persian army remained primarily an infantry force. But Cyrus recognized the necessity for a contingent of Persian cavalry if he were to deal successfully with the cavalry-using Lydian, Medes, and eastern Iranian tribes”.³ At this point, heavy cavalry, as well as heavy “immortal” infantrymen.

The Immortals

The heavy cavalry proof to be very important to Cyrus’ campaigns against horseback archers, because heavy cavalry was very well equipped and had a very strong shocking effect against any foe. In addition, Cyrus also commissioned the units of Immortals to protect him against any enemy on the field and anywhere else. 

Immortals
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Immortals of Persepolis

This special unit was called the Immortals because each man was swiftly replaced after retirement or death on the battlefield. 

All of Cyrus’s accomplishments and changes to the Persian way of war were fully put to use and even enhanced by King Darius the Great, the most notable successor to Cyrus the Great. Darius was the fourth King of Persia and son-in-law of the deceased Cyrus the Great.

Under Darius I, the Persian Empire reached its peak, the Persian Empire under Darius was the undisputed power of the world-conquering all of Asia Minor, Egypt, Macedonia, Thrace, Armenia, Palestine, the Island of Salamis, Crete, Rhodes, and some of the coastal cities of Greece.

Conclusion

Ultimately, Cyrus the Great’s accomplishments and reforms affected the forthcoming of the Persian Empire. The subsequent wars with Greece and other states served as the grounds to put in practice the might of the Persians.

Military History has much to thank the Ancient Persian Empire. American Navy Seals can be seen as Immortals. Navy Seals are replaced and no one knows the members only the military units.

References

 1. Brian Carey, Warfare of the Ancient World p.33

2. Briant, Pierre, From Cyrus to Alexander: a History of the Persian Empire, (Trans. version), Indiana (2002), p.46

3. Brian Carey, Warfare of the Ancient World p.34

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