The only non-Jew to be granted the title “Messiah” (Anointed by the Lord) was Cyrus the Great. It was Cyrus who defeated the neo-Babylonian empire and entered Babylon on this day in the year 540BC.
He freed the Jews from their slavery “by the rivers of Babylon” and permitted them to return to Zion.
Amongst his many titles Cyrus was called “King of the four corners of the world”.
Looking at a map of the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus I can now reveal where the four corners of the earth lie.
North West corner is the Dardanelles in Asian Turkey, guarding the entrance to the Bosphorus. This was the site upon which the Allied soldiers died in their thousands during the Great War.
South West corner is on the coast of Judea just before the Sinai desert, around where modern day Gaza city lies.
North East corner is just about where Kantubek lies on the Aral Sea. It is an abandoned site where the USSR used to test biological weapons. It has pride of place as the largest Anthrax dumping ground in history.
South East corner is the Pakistani port of Gwadar in Baluchistan province. The town name means “gateway of the wind”.
What made Cyrus great was not his conquests, but his retention of his conquests. He set up an administrative system that endured long beyond his passing. Alexander the Great defeated the Achaemenid Empire, but in deference to excellence he strove to maintain the established system of government. To the horror of many of his Macedonian generals Alexander “went native” and became a Persian. He married a Persian wife, Roxanne (Roxana).
Before Cyrus the lands were ruled by dynastic kings and their noble families, supported by the concept of divine right. Cyrus gave the job of provincial governorship to non-royals. It was a meritocracy. What he effectively established was the first “Civil Service”.
When you look at today’s map of the world of Cyrus one must marvel at his skill in holding together such a diverse empire. The land today contains the countries of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Oman and the UAE. If any modern leader could unite this area into a peaceful economic bloc they also would deserve the title “Great”
Part of his greatness was tolerance. He was protective of the rights, customs, traditions and religions of his subject peoples. The repatriation of the Jews was a strong example of this in practice. Tolerance, acceptance, pluralism, qualities that seem thin on the ground in today’s Middle East.