Tomb of Cyrus

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Tomb of Cyrus the Great
آرامگاه کوروش بزرگ
Pasargad Tomb Cyrus3.jpg
Location Pasargadae, Iran
Built6th century BC
Built for Cyrus the Great
Architectural style(s) Persian (Achaemenid)
Iran location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within Iran

The Tomb of Cyrus (Persian : آرامگاه کوروش بزرگ, romanized: ārāmgāh-e kurosh-e bozorg) is a monument serving as the tomb of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the ancient Achaemenid Empire. It is located in Pasargadae, an archaeological site in the Fars Province of Iran. According to Greek literary sources, the monument dates back to approximately 550–529 BC. [1] [2] [3] The most extensive description of the structure, based on a lost account by Aristobulus (who had accompanied Alexander the Great on his eastern campaigns in the late 4th century BC), is to be found in The Anabasis of Alexander (6.29), written by Arrian in the 2nd century AD. [4]


The mausoleum is a significant historical example of earthquake engineering as it is said to be the oldest base-isolated structure in the world, allowing it great resilience against seismic hazards. [5] It is one of the key Iranian cultural heritage sites. [6]


The first modern picture of the tomb, published by James Justinian Morier in 1811, entitled the "Tomb of Madre Suleiman" Tomb of Madre Suleiman.jpg
The first modern picture of the tomb, published by James Justinian Morier in 1811, entitled the "Tomb of Madre Suleiman"

The tomb, previously known as the Tomb of Madre Suleiman (referring either to Caliph Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik or the biblical Bathsheba, mother of Solomon), was first identified by Venetian traveller Giosafat Barbaro and later by Johan Albrecht de Mandelslo. [7] It was first identified as the Tomb of Cyrus in the early nineteenth century, first by James Justinian Morier and then by Robert Ker Porter. [8] Morier described the tomb as follows:

[It] is a building of a form so extraordinary that the people of the country often call it the court of the deevis or devil. It rests upon a square base of large blocks of marble, which rise in seven layers pyramidically... On every part of the monument itself are carved inscriptions, which attest the reverence of its visitors; but there is no vestige of any of the characters of ancient Persia or even of the older Arabic. The key is kept by women, and none but females are permitted to enter. The people generally regard it as the monument of the mother of Solomon, and still connect some efficacy with the name; for they point out near the spot a certain water to which those who may have received the bite of a mad dog resort, and by which, if drank within thirty days, the evil effects of the wound are obviated. In eastern story almost every thing wonderful is attached to the Solomon of Scripture: the King however, to whose mother this tomb is said to be raised, is less incredibly, (as the Carmelites of Shiraz suggested to Mandelsloe), Shah Soleiman, the fourteenth Caliph of the race of Ali. But though this supposition is more probable than that it is the monument of Bathsheba, it is not to my mind satisfactory, as it differs totally from all the tombs of Mahomedan saints which I have ever seen in Persia, Asia Minor, or Turkey.

Morier then proposed that the tomb may be that of Cyrus, based on the description of Arrian. He noted the similarities, as well as the differences including the lack of the inscription noted by Arrian, the lack of a grove of trees, and the triangular roof against Arrian's "arched" description:

If the position of the place had corresponded with the site of Passagardae as well as the form of this structure accords with the description of the tomb of Cyrus near that city, I should have been tempted to assign to the present building so illustrious an origin. That tomb was raised in a grove; it was a small edifice covered with an arched roof of stone, and its entrance was so narrow that the slenderest man could scarcely pass through: it rested on a quadrangular base of a single stone, and contained the celebrated inscription, "mortals, I am Cyrus, son of Cambyses, founder of the Persian monarchy, and Sovereign of Asia, grudge me not therefore this monument". That the plain around Mesjed Madre Suleiman was the site of a great city, is proved by the ruins with which it is strewed; and that this city was of the same general antiquity as Persepolis may be inferred from the existence of a similar character in the inscriptions on the remains of both, though this particular edifice does not happen to display that internal evidence of a contemporaneous date. A grove would naturally have disappeared in modern Persia; the structures correspond in size; the triangular roof of that which I visited might be called arched in an age when the true semi-circular arch was probably unknown; the door was so narrow, that, if I had been allowed to make the attempt, I could scarcely have forced myself through it; and those who kept the key affirmed that the only object within was an immense stone, which might be "the base of a single piece" described by Arrian; but as he was repeating the account of another, the difference is of little consequence, if it exists. I suspect however, as many of the buildings at Persepolis are so put together that they might once have seemed one vast block, that the present structure might also at one time have possessed a similar appearance. The eternity of his monument indeed, which Cyrus contemplated by fixing it on one enormous stone, would be equally attained by the construction of this fabric, which seems destined to survive the revolutions of ages. And in the lapse of two thousand four hundred years, the absence of an inscription on Mesjed Madre Suleiman would not be a decisive evidence against its identity with the tomb of Cyrus.

Classical accounts

Arrian, writing in the second century AD, described the tomb as follows: [9]

He was grieved by the outrage committed upon the tomb of Cyrus, son of Cambyses; for according to Aristobulus, he found it dug through and pillaged. The tomb of the famous Cyrus was in the royal park at Pasargadae, and around it a grove of all kinds of trees had been planted. The park was also watered by a stream, and high grass grew in the meadow. The base of the tomb itself had been made of squared stone in the form of a rectangle. Above it there was a stone building surmounted by a roof, with a door leading within, so narrow that even a small man could with difficulty enter, after suffering much discomfort. In the building lay a golden coffin, in which the body of Cyrus had been buried, and by the side of the coffin was a couch, the feet of which were of gold wrought with the hammer. A carpet of Babylonian tapestry with purple rugs formed the bedding ; upon it were also a Median coat with sleeves and other tunics of Babylonian manufacture. Aristobulus adds that Median trousers and robes dyed the colour of hyacinth were also lying upon it, as well as others of purple and various other colours; moreover there were collars, sabres, and earrings of gold and precious stones soldered together, and near them stood a table. On the middle of the couch lay the coffin which contained the body of Cyrus. Within the inclosure, near the ascent leading to the tomb, there was a small house built for the Magians who guarded the tomb; a duty which they had discharged ever since the time of Cambyses, son of Cyrus, son succeeding father as guard. To these men a sheep and specified quantities of wheaten flour and wine were given daily by the king; and a horse once a month as a sacrifice to Cyrus. Upon the tomb an inscription in Persian letters had been placed, which bore the following meaning in the Persian language: "O man, I am Cyrus, son of Cambyses, who founded the empire of the Persians, and was king of Asia. Do not therefore grudge me this monument.” As soon as Alexander had conquered Persia, he was very desirous of entering the tomb of Cyrus; but he found that everything else had been carried off except the coffin and couch.

Strabo stated that when Alexander the Great looted and destroyed Persepolis, he paid a visit to the tomb of Cyrus and commanded Aristobulus, one of his warriors, to enter the monument. Inside he found a golden bed, a table set with drinking vessels, a gold coffin, some ornaments studded with precious stones and an inscription on the tomb. No trace of any such inscription survives. Strabo described it as follows: [10]

Alexander then went to Pasargadae; and this too was an ancient royal residence. Here he saw also, in a park, the tomb of Cyrus; it was a small tower and was concealed within the dense growth of trees. The tomb was solid below, but had a roof and sepulchre above, which latter had an extremely narrow entrance. Aristobulus says that at the behest of the king he passed through this entrance and decorated the tomb; and that he saw a golden couch, a table with cups, a golden coffin, and numerous garments and ornaments set with precious stones; and that he saw all these things on his first visit, but that on a later visit the place had been robbed and everything had been carried off except the couch and the coffin, which had only been broken to pieces, and that the robbers had removed the corpse to another place, a fact which plainly proved that it was an act of plunderers, not of the satrap, since they left behind only what could not easily be carried off; and that the robbery took place even though the tomb was surrounded by a guard of Magi, who received for their maintenance a sheep every day and a horse every month. But just as the remoteness of the countries to which Alexander's army advanced, Bactra and India, had led to numerous other revolutionary acts, so too this was one of the revolutionary acts. Now Aristobulus so states it, and he goes to record the following inscription on the tomb: "O man, I am Cyrus, who acquired the empire for the Persians and was king of Asia; grudge me not, therefore, my monument." Onesicritus, however, states that the tower had ten stories and that Cyrus lay in the uppermost story, and that there was one inscription in Greek, carved in Persian letters, "Here I lie, Cyrus, king of kings," and another written in the Persian language with the same meaning.


The design of Cyrus' tomb is credited to Mesopotamian or Elamite ziggurats, but the cella is usually attributed to Urartu tombs of an earlier period. [11] In particular, the tomb at Pasargadae has almost exactly the same dimensions as the tomb of Alyattes, father of the Lydian King Croesus; however, some have refused the claim (according to Herodotus, Croesus was spared by Cyrus during the conquest of Lydia, and became a member of Cyrus' court). The main decoration on the tomb is a rosette design over the door within the gable. [12] In general, the art and architecture found at Pasargadae exemplified the Persian synthesis of various traditions, drawing on precedents from Elam, Babylon, Assyria, and ancient Egypt, with the addition of some Anatolian influences.

Cyrus the Great Day

A cake in the shape of the Cyrus Cylinder and a cake in the shape of the Tomb of Cyrus at Pasargadae Cyrus the great day on october 29th the iran.jpg
A cake in the shape of the Cyrus Cylinder and a cake in the shape of the Tomb of Cyrus at Pasargadae

Cyrus the Great Day (Persian: روز کوروش بزرگ ruz-e kuroš-e bozorg), also simply known as Cyrus Day (Persian:روز کوروش ruz-e kuroš), is an unofficial holiday in Iran that takes place annually in the Tomb of Cyrus on October 29th, 7th of Aban on Iranian calendar, to commemorate Cyrus the Great. That is the anniversary of the entrance of Cyrus into Babylon. Cyrus is founder of the first Persian Empire also known as Achaemenid Empire. [13]

Iranian New Year

During Nowruz, the Persian New Year, celebrations are held annually around the tomb by Iranians which gather from all around the country. Iranians respect Cyrus the Great as the founder of Iran and the Persian Empire. [14] [15]

See also


  1. Strabo "The Geography of Strabo. Literally translated, with notes, in three volumes", W. Falconer, H.C. Hamilton (trl.), T.3, London: George Bell & Sons, 1889, Strb. XV.3.8, p.134.
  2. Briant P., From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire, Eisenbrauns, 2002, p.85, ISBN   0-19-813190-9
  3. Stronach D., Pasargadae. A Report of the Excavations Conducted by the British Institute of Persian Studies from 1961 to 1963, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1978, p.22-23, 42, ISBN   0-19-813190-9
  4. Tomb of Cyrus the Great. Old Persian (Aryan) - (The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies - CAIS)
  5. Masoumi, Mohammad Mehdi (2016-03-31). "Ancient Base Isolation System in Mausoleum of Cyrus the Great". International Journal of Earthquake Engineering and Hazard Mitigation (IREHM). 4 (1). doi:10.15866/irehm.v4i1.8147 (inactive 2021-01-10). ISSN   2282-6912.CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of January 2021 (link)
  6. Butler, Richard; O'Gorman, Kevin D.; Prentice, Richard (2012-07-01). "Destination Appraisal for European Cultural Tourism to Iran". International Journal of Tourism Research. 14 (4): 323–338. doi:10.1002/jtr.862. ISSN   1522-1970.
  7. The Classical Journal. A. J. Valpay. 1819. pp. 354–.
  8. Porter, 1821, Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, ancient Babylonia... during the years 1817, 1818, 1819, and 1820, p.498-501
  9. Arrian (1893). Arrian's Anabasis of Alexander and Indica. G. Bell & sons. p. 340. Book 6 Chapter 29
  10. [*.html The Geography of Strabo, 1932 edition, Book XV, Chapter 3
  11. Hogan, C Michael (Jan 19, 2008), "Tomb of Cyrus", in Burnham, A (ed.), The Megalithic Portal
  12. Ferrier, Ronald W (1989), The Arts of Persia, Yale University Press, ISBN   978-0-300-03987-0
  13. "منشور کورش بزرگ". Retrieved 2011-10-15.
  14. "Visitor anti-robot validation". Retrieved 2017-01-11.
  15. "Iran: The Challenges of a Split Personality - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English". Retrieved 2017-01-11.

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Coordinates: 30°11′38″N53°10′02″E / 30.19389°N 53.16722°E / 30.19389; 53.16722