Tomb of Cyrus the Great (all photos are my own)
“O man, whoever you are and wherever you come from, for I know you will come, I am Cyrus who won the Persians their empire. Do not therefore begrudge me this bit of earth that covers my bones.” Quote from Cyrus
Darius the Great and Palace Guard (National Museum, Tehran)
South central Iran, near the new city of Shiraz, is the location of three magnificent edifices, shrouded in mystery, that are treasures of not only Persian culture, but world history as well. They are the purported tomb of Cyrus II, the Great, at Pasargadae; the 4 tombs at the cliffs of Naqsh-e Rostam; and the sprawling palaces of Persepolis founded by Darius the Great, the successor to the legacy of Cyrus.
Pasargadae and the Babylon Cylinder
Cyrus the Great, also called Cyrus the Elder, is particularly mythical, although the Biblical writers and ancient historians like Herodotus took stabs at elucidating his deeds, usually based on third-party accounts.
“Out of the realm of myth and fable this imposing figure emerges, but history records enough of him to allow his title of ‘The Great’ to stand unquestioned. Croesus, with all his treasure, went down before him, and ‘Great Babylon’ could not withstand his arms. Great as were his achievements as a warrior and ‘a prince', history, though encumbered with the deeds of ages, still finds space to recite his nobility of soul.’” - Preface, Cyrus the Great, Famous Characters of History, Vol. III, by Jacob Abbott, first published about 1850.
An encounter with Cyrus II, first celebrated king of the Achaemenid empire known as Persia, around 550 BCE, can only happen in a virtual sense as the bones of this man are nowhere to be found. (Since Zoroastrian influences were on the ascendant in his time, I suggest that maybe he was turned to ashes, by the Heavenly Fire). His majestic tomb, slumbering on a plain of gravel, amongst some ruins of a place called Pasargadae, is essentially empty. I wandered around the 11-meter high edifice, a World Heritage site, several times feeling both bewilderment and awe at the same time. The gardens of Pasargadae are gone, but the King who was proclaimed Great remains, despite the absence of his body.