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What Iranian clerics really think of Cyrus the Great

The backlash by one prominent Iranian cleric against the recent major gathering at the tomb of Cyrus the Great belies the Shiite clergy’s more nuanced approach to Iran’s pre-Islamic past.
An Iranian woman poses for a picture on May 19, 2015, in front of the tomb of Cyrus II of Persia, known as Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Achaemenid Empire in 6th century BCE in the town of Pasargadae, 135 kilometers north east of the southern city of shiraz. Under his rule, the Achaemenid Empire created the largest empire the world had yet seen. Cuneiform records from Babylon suggest that Cyrus died on 4 December 530 BCE, but according to the Greek historian, Herodotus, Cyrus was killed near t

Cyrus the Great is probably one of the most well-known historical figures to Iranians: an ancient king who has been praised for his wise and fair rule (559-530 B.C.). His achievements — as shown in the ancient Cyrus Cylinder, which Iranians refer to as the first human rights charter — are a great source of pride for the people of Iran.

Yet the flocking of ordinary Iranians in an unprecedented manner to the Tomb of Cyrus in Pasargadae on Oct. 28, to mark what has become known as the international day of Cyrus the Great, prompted a backlash by some Iranian clerics.

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